Public Release: 

ORNL's Urban Dynamics Institute joins global fight against polio

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oct. 16, 2014 - The new Urban Dynamics Institute at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to aid polio vaccination efforts in developing countries.

Teams at the institute will apply Big Data analysis to population dynamics in Nigeria, allowing polio vaccination crews to better estimate the amount of vaccine needed and to target areas of priority, saving time and money in eradicating the disease.

Founded this year, the Urban Dynamics Institute brings together ORNL scientists across disciplines to explore the interaction between people and the urban environment, and the impacts of land use, energy, transportation and more. Oak Ridge is home to Titan, the second-most-powerful computer in the world, allowing researchers to analyze and draw conclusions from massive amounts of information.

"One of our key focuses is to understand global population distributions and the movement of populations to urban areas in the changing urban landscape," said the institute's founding director, Budhendra Bhaduri.

"The polio eradication program targets children primarily under the age of 5 for vaccination, and you need an understanding of where people are and what percentage of the population could be 5 or younger for making the campaign efficient and successful."

Since the World Health Assembly announced the goal of eradicating polio in 1988, the number of polio cases has fallen by more than 99 percent, with the disease remaining endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. One problem faced by polio vaccination teams in these countries, however, is the lack of accessible and reliable population and settlement data, which makes strategizing vaccine operations increasingly difficult.

"If you don't know where people are, you can't be effectively reaching everybody," Bhaduri said.

The data collected and assessed by the Urban Dynamics Institute will help polio vaccination teams focus their efforts in Nigeria, and contribute to the goal of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to eradicate polio worldwide. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a partnership of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control, and Rotary International supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people--especially those with the fewest resources--have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

In addition to population dynamics research, the Urban Dynamics Institute's concentrations include energy consumption, environmentally friendly vehicle fuels and other clean technologies, and urban infrastructure. The institute will partner with outside agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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About Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the US Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov.

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