IMSP highlights mathematics for health

An age-old question from frustrated math students goes, “Can I use these equations in real life?” 

The Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics (IMSP) gives us a resounding “Yes.” In fact, you can use them to make informed decisions in a pandemic.

This was demonstrated in the IMSP online webinar titled “Mathematics in the Midst of a Pandemic” on March 22, which featured mathematical researches that are geared toward providing solutions for health-related concerns, such as those surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Dr. Editha Jose, director of IMSP, the webinar aims to show how mathematics and research can be utilized to solve real world problems and underscore IMSP’s mission to contribute to national development, be it directly or indirectly.

Dr. Jomar Rabajante, dean of the Graduate School and a professor at IMSP, led the first discussion on their research about creating an early alarm system for monitoring dengue cases. He said that even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to not forget about other diseases which may still cause harm to human health.

The study was conducted under the UPLB Biomathematics Initiative, with researchers from the Institute of Biological Sciences and the Institute of Computer Science collaborating in the project, to effectively observe and document correlations between the rise of dengue cases and mosquito populations in the country. 

The use of math in health policy decisions was the focus of the talk of Dr. Alex Cook, an associate professor at the Saw See Hock School of Public Health – National University of Singapore.

Dr. Cook talked about how mathematical models were used to inform policy decisions in Singapore’s health response to COVID-19. He said that models can be used to make accurate forecasts of what will happen next, giving policy makers enough information to make policies that can avert future negative outcomes.

Through modeling, Singapore was able to support policy decisions to implement quarantine and isolation, workplace distancing, and school closure early on to control the spread of the pandemic. 

They also used models to simulate what will happen if they will or will not implement policies after the lockdown and to test the effectiveness of institution-based isolation versus home-based isolation in preventing the transmission of the virus.

Another IMSP faculty member may be able to shine the light on the controversial issue of COVID-19 vaccine distribution that the country is facing today. 

Christian Alvin Buhat presented his team’s research on finding the optimal way to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines, with the aim of minimizing deaths while also following the prioritization of certain groups for vaccination. 

Their research considered the current limited supplies of vaccines and each locality’s financial constraints and capabilities. From the findings, they saw that if there are limited vaccines, but budget will not be an issue, the number of deaths will decrease by 112 for every 1 million vaccines administered. Their model also showed that choosing the vaccine with 89.9% effectiveness at 183 pesos per dose produced the lowest projected deaths.

Lastly Monica Torres, an instructor at IMSP, discussed their research on modeling COVID-19 transmission between frontliners and the public. Their simulation showed that protecting only the frontliners cannot flatten the pandemic curve, but imposing protective measures among the public can help significantly in controlling the spread of the virus, thus recommending that both should be given protection against COVID-19.

The webinar is one of IMSP’s activities in celebration of its anniversary of being named as one of the six National Centers for Excellence (NCOE) in the Basic Sciences in the country in 1983. (Jessa Jael S. Arana)

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