Health / Pharma

How your shopper club card can help the CDC predict food borne illness

27th Mar `14, 11:51 AM in Health / Pharma

The Centers for Disease Control may not have access to real-time data like marketers do, but they are…

BDMS
Guest Contributor
 

The Centers for Disease Control may not have access to real-time data like marketers do, but they are taking advantage of some surprising data sources to help protect the public health. For example, your shopping club card could help the organization figure out what particular food has caused a salmonella outbreak.

Jennifer McQuiston and Dr. Arjun Srinivasan both officers at the CDC, explained that when someone gets sick and it’s part of a suspected outbreak, they try to get permission to access that person’s shopper card data. Speaking at the Rutberg Global summit in Atlanta Wednesday, McQuiston was very specific that they don’t commandeer the data without permission, but when they do have that permission they can use it to both help the patient specify the actual foods they ate and then match it to the same food that other ill people ate in an effort to pinpoint a culprit.

But overall, the CDC isn’t using as much data as one might think — or even hope. McQuiston said that in cases of diseases that the CDC cares about, it can take months between a patient coming in to their doctor and getting their diagnoses and the CDC getting the information about the disease showing up in that area. One reason is that such information comes to the CDC from the state public health agencies, but another is because reporting is still a paper process.

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