Facebook launches Maps to help organisations respond to health emergencies

As a way of providing health organisations with information on where intended beneficiaries live, Facebook is launching three types of maps that will help nonprofit organisations and universities working in public health get ahead of disease outbreaks and reach vulnerable communities more effectively.
According to a Newsroom Post by Laura McGorman, Policy Lead, Data for Good, and Alex Pompe, Research Manager, Data for Good at Facebook, the maps will help the platform’s health partners better understand where people live, how they are moving and whether they have connectivity.
The maps — population density maps complete with demographic estimates, movement maps and network coverage maps — when combined with information from health systems, can improve the way organisations deliver supplies and respond to outbreaks, McGorman said.
They further revealed that Facebook’s initial partners for this effort, include: Direct Relief, FHI360, Harvard School of Public Health, the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation at the University of Washington, International Medical Corps, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Malaria Atlas Project, the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, Northeastern University, Sabin Vaccine Institute, UNICEF, Wadhwani AI, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.
“Our movement maps aggregate information from people who are using Facebook on their mobile phones with location services enabled, providing real-time snapshots into mobility patterns. Partner organisations can combine this data with information on specific cases of diseases to glean insights about where the next case of cholera or drug-resistant malaria is likely to occur. The improved insights from these forecasting models allow health systems to get ahead of an outbreak by prepositioning treatments where they’re likely to be needed most,” the post stated.
Adam Kucharski, Assistant Professor in Mathematical Modeling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also added: “Population movements are crucial for the spread of many infections — from influenza to measles. But historically it’s been very difficult for disease researchers to get information on these movement patterns.”
Two years ago, Facebook began working with Columbia University to use satellite imagery and census data to build the world’s most detailed population maps to improve connectivity projects.
After working with groups such as the American Red Cross and its Missing Maps project, it realised these maps could also have profound applications in public health.
The high-resolution maps estimate not only the number of people living within 30 meter grid tiles, but also provide insights on demographics, including the number of children under five, the number of women of reproductive age, as well as young and elderly populations, at unprecedentedly high resolutions.
These maps aren’t built using Facebook data and instead rely on combining the power of machine vision AI with satellite imagery and census information.
By combining these publicly and commercially available datasets with Facebook’s AI capabilities, we have created population maps that are 3X more detailed than any other source.