September 29, 2020

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FASSSTER App to bolster COVID-19 response in the Philippines 

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) officially inaugurated the COVID-19 Philippine LGU Monitoring Platform that has been designed to improve the country’s health crisis management.

Called the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler (FASSSTER), the platform is currently under the management of the Department of Health (DoH).

The FASSSTER App was developed by Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU). Originally a research and development project, it was sent to ADMU researchers to adapt to the FASSSTER platform for the COVID-19 outbreak. It aids in detecting the spread of diseases using data from the Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response System (PIDSR), Electronic Medical Records and SMS-based reports of primary care facilities. It was completed and launched at the of August.

Analysis of the data it generates allows policymakers to understand the pandemic on all levels, assess the effects of the preventive measures in place and use best practices in specific communities.  The data gathered has also given FASSSTER team the ability to generate models to predict the peak number of cases and dates in four separate scenarios.

To further understand the advanced data that FASSSTER can generate, a virtual press release was conducted with the presence of DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña.

The Secretary explained that the key feature of the web-based disease surveillance platform is predicting the peak of confirmed cases, peak date, case doubling time and other such critical data. This will reliably facilitate understanding of the COVID-19 spread. Other advantages include the ability to forecast health system capacity requirements based on the projected peak and number of mild, severe, critical cases at the municipal, provincial, and regional levels.

FASSSTER is capable of performing spatial analysis to determine the clustering of cases at the barangay level. The tool also considers social, economic and security risk rating and classification of all cities and municipalities when visualising responses.  Peña added that FASSSTER could lower the local government unit’s epidemic risk level and suggest tailor-made COVID-19 strategies and responses based on case doubling time and critical care utilisation rate.

Heath Undersecretary Lilibeth David said that the team behind FASSSTER was able to guide the government with its response-planning. DOST invested more than PHP 4.8 million (US$ 65,000) for the FASSSTER project as early as 2016. Initially, FASSSTER was conceptualised to present possible scenarios of other disease outbreaks like dengue, measles and typhoid fever prior to the unprecedented COVID-19 global crisis.

The DOST Undersecretary added that, presently, the DOH will work with the FASSSTER team when they need to add or tweak the system.