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The University of Oxford has received designation as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre in Geospatial Disease Modelling. Based in the Spatial Ecology and Epidemiology Group (SEEG) in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, this new designation primarily recognises the contributions of SEEG to supporting the modelling, monitoring and evaluation activities of the WHO Global Malaria Programme.

The SEEG group, led by Professor Simon Hay, investigate spatial and temporal aspects of infectious disease epidemiology to provide an improved evidence-base for disease control, with their malaria research programme conducted under the umbrella of the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP).  MAP has been supported by a coalition of funders, most notably the Wellcome Trust, The UK Medical Research Council, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Understanding global patterns of malaria risk and how these may be changing in response to international control efforts is a key element in making progress against the disease.

Dr Peter Gething, Director of the new Collaborating Centre, explains the challenge:

"Reliable information underpins everything from international policy-setting to local disease control, but data on malaria risk can be patchy - particularly in those countries with the highest burdens. This is where geospatial modelling has an important role: making sure we maximise the information that is out there whilst also understanding the uncertainties that can highlight where more data are needed."

Dr Robert Newman, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, elaborated on the role of the new Collaborating Centre:

“I would like to congratulate the Oxford team on this achievement. This designation formalises an already thriving collaboration between the Spatial Ecology and Epidemiology Group and the WHO Global Malaria Programme which has contributed greatly to the difficult but vital tasks of mapping, measuring, and monitoring malaria during a time of major global change."

The work of the Collaborating Centre will initially focus around three terms of reference:

1. To contribute to WHO’s work in estimating the changing burden of malaria case incidence

2. To contribute to WHO’s work in estimating the changing burden of malaria mortality

3. To assist WHO in generating annual country profiles of malaria risk