PSC Public Health Symposium

April 21, 2017 – 1pm
300 S Craig St, Pittsburgh PA


April’s PSC Symposium Series focuses on Public Health Applications. The program will include an overview of the Public Applications team with research presentations to follow.


Overview: Public Health Applications at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Shawn T. Brown, PhD., Director of Public Health Applications, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

The Public Health Applications team at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center began in 2011 to bring simulation modeling, data analytics, and large-scale computing to public health decision making. The team has projects spanning modeling vaccine delivery in low- and middle-income countries, modeling the spread of infectious diseases through healthcare ecosystems, exploring vaccination policies for prevention of influenza in the US, and creating virtual population models as virtual laboratories for childhood obesity prevention. The presentation will provide an overview of these projects with some examples of specific studies.


Talk #1: Cost-effectiveness of providing choice for influenza vaccination

Jay DePasse, Senior Software Manager, Public Health Applications, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Offering patients the choice for influenza vaccine type may increase vaccine coverage and reduce disease burden. However, offering a choice incurs higher costs both for time to discuss the options and for storage and handling of multiple vaccine types. In this study, the public health impact and cost-effectiveness (CE) of vaccine choice were calculated. We considered four strategies: No Choice, Pediatric Choice, Adult Choice, or Choice for Both Age Groups. Using agent-based modeling, we simulated individuals as they interacted with others over time and location, and tracked influenza as it spread through a synthetic metropolitan Washington DC population. With moderate influenza infectivity, the average number of cases was 1,117,285 for the No Choice, 1,083,126 for Pediatric Choice, 1,009,026 for Adult Choice, and 975,818 for Choice for Both Age Groups strategies. Averted cases increased with increased coverage and were highest for the Choice for Both Age Groups strategy; Adult Choice also reduced the number of cases in children. In CE analysis, Choice for Both Age Groups was dominant when choice increased vaccine coverage by 3.25%, 6.5% or 11.25%. Offering choice of influenza vaccines, with reasonable resultant increases in coverage, decreased influenza cases by >100,000 in one metropolitan region with a favorable CE profile. Furthermore, providing adults with vaccine choice reduced influenza in children.


Talk #2: The Economic and Operational Value of Using Drones to Transport Vaccines

Leila Haidari, MPH, Public Health Applications Manager, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Immunization programs in low- and middle-income countries face numerous challenges in getting life-saving vaccines to the people who need them. As unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology has progressed in recent years, potential use cases for UAVs have proliferated due to their ability to traverse difficult terrains, reduce labor, and replace fleets of vehicles that require costly maintenance. Our team used a HERMES-generated simulation model to assess the impact of using UAVs for routine vaccine distribution under a range of circumstances reflecting variations in geography, population, road conditions, and vaccine schedules. We also identified the UAV payload and costs necessary for such a system to be favorable over a traditional multi-tiered land transport system.

Utilizing UAVs in the baseline scenario improved vaccine availability (96% versus 94%) and produced logistics cost savings of $0.08 per dose administered as compared to the traditional land transport system. The UAVs maintained cost savings in all sensitivity analyses, ranging from $0.05 to $0.21 per dose administered. The minimum UAV payloads necessary to achieve cost savings over land transport, for the various vaccine schedules and UAV costs and lifetimes tested, were substantially smaller (up to 0.40L) than the currently assumed UAV payload of 1.5L. Similarly, the maximum UAV system costs that could achieve savings were greater than the currently assumed costs under realistic flight conditions. Implementing a UAV system could increase vaccine availability and decrease costs in a wide range of settings and circumstances if the drones are used frequently enough to overcome the capital costs of installing and maintaining the system. Our computational model showed that major drivers of costs savings from using UAVs are road speed of traditional land vehicles, the number of people needing to be vaccinated, and the distance that needs to be traveled.