Where health and weather data meet: AccuWeather unveils Zika Risk Index app

New software hints at the potential to better understand and avoid adverse health events by tapping into weather data.
By Tom Sullivan
12:33 PM
Zika risk

AccuWeather announced a new app that shows the risk of being exposed to Zika in geographical locations across the United States.

The Mosquito Zika Risk Index, also accessible through AccuWeather’s website, enables users to view what the company described as risk-level information, notably suspected cases of Zika that have been reported in a geographical location.  

AccuWeather’s new app is the latest in a growing field of software programs that combine health and weather data.

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Whether the new app proves useful to clinicians or many consumers, rather than just pregnant women potentially traveling to Zika areas, remains to be seen — as does user preference for downloading the app versus visiting the website.

The app and service on AccuWeather’s site, however, do offer a glimpse of the potential for combining weather and health information to benefit patients or potential ones. And AccuWeather is not the only company doing just that.

IBM and WeatherBug have apps, too

Remember when IBM bought The Weather Company in late October of 2015? Eyebrows rose, scalps got scratched. People in many industries wondered what Big Blue even wanted with the acquisition and there was plenty of speculation about the implications for vertical industries, healthcare among those.

Then in April 2017 the company upgraded its Allergy Tracker, in collaboration with GSK Consumer Healthcare, that relays weather conditions, hyper-local allergy reports, expanded forecasts, and more.

IBM has continued the Weather Company’s focus on weather events and superstorms, which, of course, are public health crises, such as the advanced global radar app the company announce in June of this year, followed by a July partnership inked with PurpleAir, an air quality sensor manufacturer, to essentially display readings and maps of air quality.

WeatherBug, for its part, also offers local pollen details in its Weather app, though it doesn’t market it as a health tool.

Indeed, the picture of how weather data can be used to positively impact health outcomes is coming into focus. Exactly how users will prefer to ingest that information, however, is not as clear.

App vs. Web

Apps are cool. We all know that. But if users are only likely to launch a specific program sporadically, then those who may no longer be enamored with downloading the latest and greatest might find it easier to just look up exactly what they want, and when, on the corresponding website.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control lists Brownsville, Texas and Miami-Dade County in Florida as areas where this risk of Zika infection is present.

Regardless of how ones consumes the information, for instance, users can view an interactive timeline that AccuWeather said can predict risk levels as far as 90 days into the future.

To do that, the index takes into account historical data about mosquitos’ habitat, relevant scientific research and, naturally, weather forecasts to determine if the risk very low, low, medium or high, the company said.

AccuWeather was careful to point out the app and index is neither medical warning nor diagnostic tool and, as such, patients concerned that they may have been exposed should consult a physician and make those decisions together.

The company noted that it also offers a Pollen Index and that weather data in general can help people with asthma, joint pain or migraines manage their conditions.

The new app is only available for iOS right now, though an Android version is coming soon.

Twitter: SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com

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