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Front Public Health. 2018 Mar 7;6:68. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00068. eCollection 2018.

Big Data's Role in Precision Public Health.

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Cloudera, Inc., Palo Alto, CA, United States.


Precision public health is an emerging practice to more granularly predict and understand public health risks and customize treatments for more specific and homogeneous subpopulations, often using new data, technologies, and methods. Big data is one element that has consistently helped to achieve these goals, through its ability to deliver to practitioners a volume and variety of structured or unstructured data not previously possible. Big data has enabled more widespread and specific research and trials of stratifying and segmenting populations at risk for a variety of health problems. Examples of success using big data are surveyed in surveillance and signal detection, predicting future risk, targeted interventions, and understanding disease. Using novel big data or big data approaches has risks that remain to be resolved. The continued growth in volume and variety of available data, decreased costs of data capture, and emerging computational methods mean big data success will likely be a required pillar of precision public health into the future. This review article aims to identify the precision public health use cases where big data has added value, identify classes of value that big data may bring, and outline the risks inherent in using big data in precision public health efforts.


big data; computational epidemiology; infectious disease surveillance; precision population health; precision public health

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