The $3 Million Heritage Health Prize: Big Data Enhancing Wellness Across the World

medicine-and-big-dataIn his presentation, Anthony Goldbloom of Kaggle called this the biggest ever data prize. Right now, they’re running a competition in cooperation with Heritage Provider Network looking for programmers to develop the next Big Data health-related algorithm for helping re-envision health care systems across the world into something that will actually promote and predict health trends rather than simply react to them. (See the videos below.)

Right now, health care systems behave more along the lines of a reaction to illness. Across the entire health care industry, both health care providers and insurance companies want to reduce the total number of sick people (it costs less money that way after all) through preventative care. Ignoring the pragmatic effect of industry economy, there’s still a communal effect that greater preventative prediction and care will leave us all with a much healthier community.

Much in the same way that vaccinations work to generate herd immunity, a healthier community will reduce overall stress on everyone, it makes it more difficult for contagious illnesses to spread through populations, lessens worker downtimes, and even raises up the general quality of life for everyone. Needless to say, people who are sick less often feel a lot better about their lives, their community, and their world in general.

How can Big Data be used to tackle this sort of subject? Well, that’s a little bit of a thorny issue—as it will involve the collation of a great deal of data from a lot of people in a manner than our various cultures still find a little bit intrusive of our privacy.

It will involve attempting to cleanse data sets that are quite personal—the medically relevant behavior of individuals—pour them into a database so that they can be accessed and addressed and then plumb them for their juicy trends and predictors. For a long time now the CDC has been doing things a lot like this in order to track and identify infectious disease trends; but the scale of a Big Data format will take a lot more than just an algorithm for general health and wellness, it will require an encompassing system that must take into account the sensitivity of the data itself.

And it certainly can, Scott Yara of Greenplum has already spoken at length about smart information systems and their role in the Big Data economy. We’ve seen presentations in both keynote speeches that will eventually deliver industrial products that must take advantage of data on this scale.

Later that day, Dave Vellante got Jeremy Howard of Kaggle and Jonathan Gluck of the Heritage Providers Network in an interview and spoke with them about the direction they expected the competition to take them. It also covers a great deal more in depth examination of the problems and solutions they hope will arise from the competition.