The Village Zero Project

Cholera is the nation's most prevalent diarrheal disease, affecting upwards of 1 million people in Bangladesh every year. Such disease burden results in incalculable lost wages and treatment expenses, taken from the pockets of an already impoverished society. In this way, cholera fuels the economic and social instability faced by this politically unstable nation. Through ghost-mapping, V0P will find the index region from which cholera originates and understand how it proliferates. With this knowledge, water and sanitation infrastructure interventions can be implemented in the most disease-prone regions, thus stopping future endemic outbreaks before they spread. If successful in Bangladesh, g...
May 5, 2014

New Analytic Approaches in 2014

It's almost summer time!

These past couple of months, the Village Zero team has been hard at work re-analyzing cholera data from Matlab per the advice of our PLOS reviewers. We're using a wide variety of techniques - from machine learning to set theory and poisson regression - to assess how infrastructural AND environmental factors impact the geospatial and temporal spread of cholera in Bangladesh. So far, it seems that water and sanitation access as well as proximity to the Meghna Delta - which serves as a natural reservoir for the cholera bacterium - are the primary indicators of disease distribution in Matlab. In addition to personal infrastructural and environmental risk factors, we're also exploring how the risk profiles of one's neighbors impacts one's likelihood of contracting cholera.

By using three different analytical techniques to approach the same question, we're hoping to get the most accurate picture possible of how, where, and why cholera spreads the way it does in Bangladesh. After wrapping up our analysis, we plan on publishing our findings in an open access journal over the summer. Following manuscript submission, we plan to develop several open access tools that are based on our findings in Matlab. Ideas currently on the drawing board include (1) a cholera risk calculator that takes user-inputted information such as location, temperature, and rainfall to assess likelihood - and magnitude - of an outbreak occurring in the near future; and (2) a decision-support tool that indicates what combination of water and/or sanitation access would be least expensive but also most helpful in preventing cholera given user-inputted information on location, temperature, rainfall, etc. These tools - designed to help practitioners on the ground make the best use of their time and money - will be made available on our website on a rolling basis.

Needless to say, we have an exciting couple of months ahead. Thank you so much for your support as we work to prevent cholera in Bangladesh!

Sincerely,
Maia Majumder
Jan 27, 2014

New Research Questions for 2014

Can you believe it's 2014 already? We've been busy working on manuscript revisions after receiving some excellent feedback from PLoS One and brainstorming our next steps with respect to data analysis. One of the topics we're most interested in exploring is how clean water and access to sanitation - as well as distance to the Meghna Delta - impact the likelihood of cholera clustering in Matlab, Bangladesh. While the Meghna Delta is often considered the biological reservoir for the cholera bacterium, we are curious about whether potable water and sanitary latrines can reduce the likelihood of contracting cholera - even if a village is geo-spatially close to the disease reservoir. At present, most literature agrees that both water and sanitation as well as hydro-climatic factors - such as proximity to the naturally-occurring disease reservoir - are critical to the spread of cholera; however, we have yet to establish a clear understanding of how such infrastructural and environmental elements interact. Additionally, we're looking forward to investigating how the state of water and sanitation in neighboring villages impacts the vulnerability of a given village. For instance, there are some villages in Bangladesh that have excellent access to clean water and sanitation; however, they are surrounded by neighbors that do not. Does this change how vulnerable they are to cholera? Is there a threshold to their vulnerability? Is that threshold contingent on distance from the Meghna Delta? This kind of knowledge is vital to improving disease management and ensuring that the right resources get to the right place at the right time.

We're excited about what's ahead as we start moving forward and answering these questions. Our goal at V0P is to create actionable knowledge that enables water, sanitation, and health organizations and helps them better understand and control cholera in Bangladesh. With your help, we've been able to continue forth in our mission, and for that we could never thank you enough!

Oct 28, 2013

Why V0P Believes in Open Access Research

Hello All!

Can you believe it's October already?

For the past three months, the Village Zero team has been actively reviewing our paper, which we submitted just before our last project report. It should be just a few more weeks till we have a decision out! We're hopeful that the content we included in our manuscript will be aligned with the mission of PLoS - the "Public Library of Science".

While there were several journals to which we could have submitted our initial findings from our work in Matlab, Bangladesh, we chose PLoS because of its dedication to open access, peer-reviewed scientific literature and ethical conduct of research. In discussions among our team, we realized how essential it was to ensure that our findings were easily accessible to those who need it most - the people of Matlab, Bangladesh and the water, sanitation, and health organizations that serve them. Because access to many high quality peer-reviewed journals comes with a price tag, the reach of articles published in them can be limited. Given that the purpose of our work is not purely academic but instead humanitarian in nature, publishing in an acclaimed open access journal like PLoS is ideal. By providing free access to our findings, we move one step closer to getting important information on the proliferation of cholera in Bangladesh to those who can use it best to prevent it.

As we wait to hear back from PLoS, the creative juices at V0P are flowing. We're thinking about how tools like system dynamics, dynamic programming, and agent-based simulations can help us learn more about cholera in Bangladesh. Over the next several months, our goal is to create an intelligent model that will help us predict when and where outbreaks may occur and how severe we should expect them to be. Once we've built this model, we'll be creating an applet that works around the model - allowing users to input parameters like date, temperature, rainfall, humidity, etc. to pull up a spatiotemporal forecast of the disease. As we ask ourselves at V0P, "What if we could predict cholera like we can predict the weather?" With your continued support, we'll be able to discover just how much impact we've got in store!

With Gratitude,
Maia Majumder

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