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Are we ready for a new era of high-impact and high-frequency epidemics?

An analysis of the causes of forthcoming epidemics in the twenty-first century has been validated by the COVID‑19 pandemic (J. Bedford et al. Nature 575, 130–136; 2019). The International Initiative on Spatial Lifecourse Epidemiology (ISLE), which we direct, is a transdisciplinary collaborative network that is helping to keep up with the dynamic and multidimensional nature of epidemics (P. Jia Lancet Planet. Health 3, PE57–E59; 2019). It aims to improve the forecasting, monitoring and management of chronic diseases and epidemics.

The ISLE uses big data, citizen science, artificial intelligence and advanced tracking technologies to investigate the long-term effects of environmental, behavioural, psychosocial and biological factors on public health. This year, it relocated from Europe to China to strengthen leadership and public-health measures in developing regions, particularly for epidemic control and prevention. It adopts ‘one-health’ approaches — using Earth-observation technologies to monitor the environment, ecology and health, for example. Also, the community is encouraged to participate in research into the aetiology, prevention and treatment of past diseases as a guide to future responses.

We urge the World Health Organization to coordinate the geographical coverage of global public-health initiatives and to promote their relocation to the most vulnerable regions.

Nature 580, 321 (2020)



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