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Data firms join forces to help Path beat malaria

Tableau, Mapbox, Exasol and Alteryx commit $4.3m to back anti-malaria scheme in sub-Saharan Africa run by health charity

A group of data management and analytics suppliers have joined forces to help speed up the war against malaria.

Tableau, Mapbox, Exasol and Alteryx have committed $4.3m over the next three years to back the expansion of an anti-malaria scheme in sub-Saharan Africa, run by health charity Path.

In an interview with Computer Weekly in 2017 that covered the involvement of Alteryx in Path’s data analysis activities, Duncan Earle, director of country programmes for the Malaria Control and Elimination Partnership in Africa (Macepa) at Path said: “Accounting for population growth, if we hadn’t done anything from 2004 onwards, the number of deaths from malaria would be 1.6 million a year, not 450,000. And those lives are saved every year.”

This latest grant to Path is aimed at building on the five-year-old Visualize No Malaria initiative and was announced at a World Malaria Day 2019 event hosted by the RBM Partnership to End Malaria in alliance with the City of Paris and the French government at the Hotel de Ville in Paris.

Path hopes to use the money to support “national governments and regional organisations in up to six sub-Saharan countries in the use of real-time data and analytics to bolster decision-making around elimination efforts”, according to a press statement from the organisation.

Steve Davis, president and CEO of Path, said: “Successful malaria elimination programmes require accurate data that moves faster than the disease itself – to help shorten the distance and time it takes to find and treat cases, and even to predict risk and direct resources before cases occur.”

The investment will also fund training for hundreds of front-line health workers and officials on how to use data to tackle malaria and other diseases.

The Visualize No Malaria programme was launched in 2015 as a collaboration between the Tableau Foundation and Zambia’s ministry of health and national malaria elimination centre in efforts to eliminate the disease by 2021.

According to the press statement, the Zambian government has reduced reported malaria cases by 85% and malaria-related deaths by 92% across a population of 1.8 million people in the country’s southern province.

The programme’s tools and approach are reportedly being replicated in Senegal, which has seen a 60% drop in reported malaria cases across a northern Senegal population of 1.8 million in two years.

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Doudou Séne, director of Senegal’s national malaria control programme, said: “The national malaria control programme sees new tools to make data faster and easier to use and act upon as critical to helping us win the fight against malaria. With this new commitment, we can increase the number of districts where we use the Visualize No Malaria stack and make informed, real-time decisions across the nation, as well as support our cross-border collaboration with the Gambia.”

For the Tableau Foundation, this is the second major grant and the first in the global health arena following a $100m pledge announced by Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky at the 2018 Tableau Conference.

Neal Myrick, global head of the foundation, said: “Since the outset of the Visualize No Malaria initiative, we have seen countries and communities develop incredibly effective resources for fighting the disease.”

Data analytics firm Alteryx is again contributing, as part of its Alteryx for Good programme, as is in-memory database provider Exasol.

Mapbox is another supplier taking part in the effort, and is said to be providing remote and on-site technical support and training, as well as testing new offline mapping tools. 

Mapbox CEO Eric Gundersen said: “Our company’s roots began with global development projects in Afghanistan, Congo, Haiti, and the US, so the mission of Visualize No Malaria is very close to our hearts.”

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