In response to public health needs, governments struggle to find effective and conscious solutions to these problems and maybe overthinking the situation.
NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES, October 28, 2020 /EINPresswire.com/ — Frustrations are on the rise throughout the world due to COVID lockdown fatigue. At the same time, governments struggle to reopen businesses and economies. Local and Federal governments scramble to find efficient ways to identify COVID cases and privately communicate the health needs of those potentially affected. However, maintaining medical privacy and divided opinions about the dangers of COVID continue to hinder efforts to create programs to contain and manage outbreaks.
The Australian city of Melbourne is not immune to these challenges as efforts begin to reopen the city safely. At the same time, cases diminish but still nag health professionals. Residents of Melbourne and the state of Victoria are increasingly vocal about the lack of concise communication coming from government agencies. “I have to seek out a lot of information from different sources; we get different information coming from many sources,” says Melbourne resident Marcus Harris. “Therefore, I try to seek out the correct information that directly affects my family and the area we live in. Melbourne is a large city, and doing the right thing starts with knowing what’s going on in our neighbourhood.”
Current technology relies on two methodologies to disseminate information to citizens, government employees, and officials attached to governmental departments. First, disparate websites and updated with habitually conflicting information relying on users to visit a website that delivers information. This pull system cannot offer the level of detail needed to be effective without divulging this medical information. The second method is a listserve that the agency manages that requires users to “opt-in” utilizing web forms ordinarily available on a website attached to that agency. These listserve methods are at best antiquated, using email or SMS systems, which are highly regulated and time-consuming to manage.
Although familiar, current communication technologies have only proven effective if end-users ‘sign up’ for many different services. Then continually seek out information from these sources to ascertain the most important information for themselves. The relevance of such information must be gleaned and continuously assessed for each end-user. This information often has no geographical relevance to the end-user, only adding white noise to the end-users data stream.
In response to public health needs, governments struggle to find effective and conscious solutions to these problems and maybe overthinking the situation. “It seems due to increasing public pressure; governmental agencies are overlooking current technologies that could immediately be implemented. Local and state governments are looking for solutions that could be achieved using platforms already available,” says Tracy Allan, President / CEO of GPost Corporation America. “Our team is finding several ways to assist with private, secure, and scalable COVID reporting while respecting privacy requirements.”
Recent Australian and California bushfires are akin to COVID outbreaks, and lessons learned from these events show that geographically relevant information can help solve many current communication issues. Pull systems, such as websites disseminating information, require multiple steps to get reports and are often late with updates while offering little geographical relevance.
Mary-Louise McLaws, an epidemiologist and professor from the University of New South Wales and adviser to the World Health Organization, believes a mobile app could help with outbreaks and ease restrictions.
“You’re not going to go into a website and look upon the web “bushfires.” But you will open up your phone and identify where the closest bushfires are,” she told https://www.abc.net.au.
Professor McLaws said to make such a system possible; the Government would need to be prepared to release geospatial mapping of cases that provided more detail than a case’s local government area (LGA).
Professor McLaws also suggests breaking down cases into smaller statistical areas similar to those already used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, termed SA1 and SA2. “And that still gives people privacy. It doesn’t tell people your street or the number of your house or your home unit, but it tells you about a block or number of streets,” she says. “And so a GIS [geographic information system] map, that’s better than giving it by local government area, [and] will probably encourage people to get tested, to understand the importance of cooperating with physical distancing, mask use et cetera.”
According to Dr. Paul Sambanis, an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, “Systems like GPost is a push and not a pull system allowing Government and other authorized individuals to select specific geo-targeted area like SA1 and SA2. This maintains medical privacy but helps individuals give them the right information and to take action.”
With COVID recovery efforts accelerating worldwide, agencies responsible for communicating important information may have immediate and cost-effective solutions available to them.
“The biggest hurdle typically is the red tape associated with governments; most have a lengthy protocol for engaging in business,” says Michael Turner of Burton Trent, a New Jersey based Government Relations firm. “COVID has changed the game dramatically, as governments are easing requirements allowing for more responsive uptake of technology.”
“GPost is a public messaging tool by geolocation,” Robert Hardy, Founder and Chairman of GPost explains, “capable of delivering information directly to individuals based on address, street, suburb, or geographic location. With accurate geolocation rather than the nearest cell tower, individuals receive alerts or notifications at any location and time. If cases are reported within a particular geographical area, those potentially exposed can also be informed immediately.” These messages can be either traditional SMS or email, which include larger amounts of information (e.g., hyperlinks to a website about precautions to take, etc.), which has been proven one of the most effective ways to communicate in an emergency.