What is an EpiHack?
An EpiHack (i.e. epidemiology hackathon) is a gathering of professionals from the fields of public health and animal health, together with software developers from the public and private sectors, designed to develop low-cost, open source software tools for public health systems. During an EpiHack, participants engage in a 3 to 6 day intensive process to create, adapt, or improve technologies that address disease surveillance challenges. The designs, prototypes, and tools created during an EpiHack may be further developed into fully-functioning tools and systems in the host country or region. As of January 2019, twelve EpiHacks hosted across five continents have resulted in a number of successful open source technologies that are currently being leveraged to improve disease surveillance.
Each EpiHack has areas of focus carefully selected by co-hosts and organizers and designed to address certain disease surveillance challenges. The focus can be disease-specific (such as developing tools to address vector-borne disease), scenario-based (such as mass gathering surveillance), or driven by a certain type of method (such as community-based or event-based surveillance).
While EpiHacks are intended for developing prototypes, seeking scalable and sustainable outcomes is of primary importance. We believe that by defining challenges, brainstorming and problem solving in a collaborative and multi-sector environment, and creating prototypes jointly with key stakeholders, that we will foster the engagement needed for the organizers and partners to fully develop and scale their solutions.
Our Core Values
While hackathons are numerous and varied, a set of guiding principles help to distinguish EpiHacks as unique events:
- Collaboration: While many hackathons are competitive in nature, EpiHacks are collaborative events where all participants work together towards one or more technology solutions to the challenges presented. EpiHack participants do not compete for prizes or awards.
- Multi-Disciplinary: EpiHacks require a diverse set of participants that include technology professionals familiar with front-end development (user interfaces and web design), back-end development (servers and databases), and data science elements (data management, analytics). They also require subject-matter experts like epidemiologists, veterinarians, doctors, community health workers, and communication professionals who can frame the challenges and lend their expertise to issues of design, data acquisition and management, and implementation of proposed solutions.
- Locally Focused: The majority of attendees from both the technology and health sectors represent the host country to ensure a clear understanding of local health challenges and buy-in from those responsible for adoption and use of proposed tools. International participants from neighboring countries or those who have previously hosted an EpiHack are often included to share key insights and support facilitation.
- Open Source: All tools, prototypes, and systems developed at EpiHack events are made free and open source, allowing for others to review, modify, and adapt these solutions for their own purposes. Participants are asked to sign an “open source agreement” to the effect, stating that they waive any intellectual property rights for ideas developed during the event.
At the conclusion of an EpiHack, each working group presents wireframes, descriptions, and functional prototypes of their solution. Groups also develop an action plan to move towards implementation of these sustainable, open source tools that include considerations such as funding, training, pilot-testing, and scaling.
See more details in our Events section.