Disease-tracking research is now entering a new era: practical use by international health and relief teams. As ever-more advanced Earth-observing satellites track the temperature, precipitation, and vegetation conditions linked with certain diseases, researchers are creating models that better assess the likelihood of disease outbreaks and health organizations are using that information to plan disease response.

Map of predicted cholera 2017 outbreak in Yemen
In spring 2017, NASA-funded researchers predicted a cholera outbreak for Yemen. That June, the country had its worst outbreak in decades. Data made available by Antar Jutla and Moiz Usmani, University of Florida. Credits: NASA's Earth Observatory/Lauren Dauphin

Building bridges between researchers and health professionals is a goal of NASA's Health and Air Quality program area. Currently the program has the highest number of disease-tracking projects and partnerships in its 20-year history. Collaborators include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Agency for International Development, UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization, as well as state and local health departments. The Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) also connects experts in Earth remote sensing with public health managers and non-governmental organizations.

Read more about how these efforts slow the spread of cholera, chikungunya, Rift Valley fever, and other diseases in the NASA Earth Observatory story, Of Mosquitos and Models: Tracking Disease by Satellite.

Photo of mosquito spraying from back of pickup truck
Workers spray pesticides at a field site in Marigat, Kenya, in order to control mosquitoes. In a future with more rainfall, rising temperatures, and more intense heatwaves, preventing the spread of disease-carrying vectors becomes more challenging. Credits: NASA/Assaf Anyamba

Related Impact