UGA part of new CDC funded national disease outbreak response network

UGA’s Spencer Fox will lead development of training tools as part of center housed at UT Austin

University of Georgia’s Spencer Fox will be supporting a network of academic institutions working alongside CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA) to establish an outbreak response and disease modeling network that uses data to support decision-makers during public health emergencies.

Fox is part of a project led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Texas at Austin, that will focus on scaling up decision-support tools that were successful in earlier outbreaks for use in public health jurisdictions nationwide. The multi-site team will produce a portfolio of online courses, tutorials and live game-based exercises to meet the needs of public health agencies.

Fox will lead the project in assessing training needs in the public health workforce and creating online and in-person training resources, including short courses and online modules to train agencies how to use the tools developed by the center and a wide range of infectious disease modeling topics, so that they can properly understand, interrogate, interpret and communicate modeling results during future outbreaks.

In addition, the team will develop pandemic simulations and games that will be used to test their understanding in realistic outbreak response scenarios.

“Our hope is that these training modules will be used to upskill the public health workforce, so that we can expand the nation’s capacity for data-driven decision-making during future outbreaks” said Fox.

Fox is trained as a computational biologist and has been using statistical models to understand emerging infectious diseases for over 10 years. He joined the UGA College of Public Health in 2022 as part of the Presidential Interdisciplinary Faculty Hiring Initiative in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence.

“Each of the grantees will help us move the nation forward in our efforts to better prepare and respond to infectious disease outbreaks that threaten our families and our communities,” said Dylan George, director of the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics. “We are committed to working alongside these outstanding partners to achieve our goal of using data and advanced analytics to support decision-makers at every level of government.”

The national network is the first step towards creating a nationwide resource for outbreak analytics, disease modeling and forecasting to support more effective response during public health emergencies, he said.

The Texas-Massachusetts project team received $27.5 million as part of a five-year $250 million investment by the CDC.

Posted September 26, 2023.