Measuring mobility, disease connectivity and individual risk: a review of using mobile phone data and mHealth for travel medicine.


Despite some inherent biases of mobile phone data, analysing anonymized positions from mobile users could precisely quantify the dynamical processes associated with contemporary human movements and connectivity of infectious diseases at multiple temporal and spatial scales. Moreover, recent progress in mobile health (mHealth) technology and applications, integrating with mobile positioning data, shows great potential for innovation in travel medicine to monitor and assess real-time health risk for individuals during travel.

The increasing mobility of populations allows pathogens to move rapidly and far, making endemic or epidemic regions more connected to the rest of the world than at any time in history. However, the ability to measure and monitor human mobility, health risk and their changing patterns across spatial and temporal scales using traditional data sources has been limited. To facilitate a better understanding of the use of emerging mobile phone technology and data in travel medicine, we reviewed relevant work aiming at measuring human mobility, disease connectivity and health risk in travellers using mobile geopositioning data.

Mobile phones and mHealth have become a novel and tremendously powerful source of information on measuring human movements and origin-destination-specific risks of infectious and non-infectious health issues. The high penetration rate of mobile phones across the globe provides an unprecedented opportunity to quantify human mobility and accurately estimate the health risks in travellers. Continued efforts are needed to establish the most promising uses of these data and technologies for travel health.

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