The project centers around public health safety, with specific attention to contact investigations for tuberculosis (TB). In 2008, 12,898 TB cases were reported in the United States. TB among foreign-born populations makes up more than half of that total number. Contact investigations are a critical public health activity that identifies individuals who have been exposed to a person with infectious TB and who may have been infected. There is a need to improve the effectiveness of contact investigations if we hope to reduce TB morbidity This project will provide field investigators with real-time information that will identify epidemiological connections among people and places. This will be accomplished by bringing together social networking analysis and contact investigation-related information assets on a mobile device dynamically during the actual investigation. The long-term objective is to build a web-enabled, mobile tool that can be used in investigations regarding a wide range of infectious diseases. The short-term objective is to focus on the infectious disease, TB. Through close collaboration with the Southeastern National Tuberculosis Center (SNTC) we will create software on a tablet device to assist the investigator in developing the network. The software will be a visual interface composed of two windows (Network and Data), and will be based on current methods in social networking analysis. The short term objective will be accomplished through satisfying three aims: 1) Aim # 1: using a formative assessment cycle to design and construct the visual interface software for the device;2) Aim # 2: field the device and software created during Aim # 1, while obtaining interactions between the investigator and contact and recording how the investigator uses the device;and 3) Aim # 3: assess the utility of the device in its ability to meet the objectives and requirements set out in Aim # 1. We hypothesize that the device will yield richer and more productive investigator-contact interviews. Use of the device is expected to result in information that represents a measurable improvement in quality regarding the social network data related to the investigation than would be possible without the device (i.e., current practice).
The proposed work is to provide the TB contact investigator with a mobile tablet tool with custom software and social networking analysis capability. This tool will provide the investigator with an augmented method of interviewing contacts during a contact investigation by leveraging online web assets. We hypothesize that use of the tool will measurably improve the quality of their field investigations and lead to broader contact applications for other infectious diseases.