Chile’s Ministries of Health and Sciences were honored for their life-saving initiatives rooted in operations research and analytics
BEAVERTON, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Gurobi Optimization, LLC, creator of the world’s fastest mathematical optimization solver, announced that the Government of Chile has received the prestigious Franz Edelman Award for their outstanding work in operations research during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chilean Ministries of Health and Sciences partnered with the Istituto Sistemas Complejos de Ingeniería (ISCI) and telecom company Entel to develop innovative methodologies that have shaped the country’s fight against the virus. Gurobi technology played a key role in the initiative’s serological study by ensuring the optimal allocation of mobile testing stations—an effort that ultimately demonstrated the importance of booster vaccines.
As the pandemic hit Chile in the spring of 2020, science, operations research, and analytics all played critical roles in the country’s comprehensive reaction. The collaboration between Chile and ISCI focused on four key initiatives: 1) analyzing the actual effects of lockdowns in different principalities; 2) allocating limited ICU capacity; 3) increasing testing capacity and active screening; and 4) implementing a nationwide serology surveillance program that significantly influenced Chile’s vaccination and booster choices.
“During the first wave of 2020, we saw a large disparity in the effectiveness of lockdowns across regions, and even within the same city,” explained ISCI researcher Marcelo Olivares. “Seeing this, it became clear that we needed indicators other than new cases to quickly evaluate the effectiveness of the lockdowns, because waiting to observe the evolution of cases proved to be too late to contain outbreaks.”
The research teams used anonymized mobility data to anticipate outbreaks, which helped authorities develop more effective lockdown strategies. This led to an estimated 13,000 fewer cases, 550 fewer hospitalizations, and 370 fewer deaths. The mobility data also revealed that social distancing was more difficult for lower-income families, which allowed the government to provide more focalized aid.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health seized control of all ICU beds nationwide, combining public and private hospitals into one centralized system and transporting patients from more congested cities to less congested ones. ISCI’s researchers prepared data-based forecasts every two days to predict the need for ICU beds and progressively increase capacity.
To identify more asymptomatic cases, the government increased mobile testing locations in public spaces. The Ministries of Health and Science worked with ISCI to efficiently place these stations by combining mobility and epidemiological data. These active screening efforts led to an estimated 23,000 averted infections, 900 fewer ICU hospitalizations, and 450 fewer deaths.
Without access to large amounts of mRNA vaccines, Chile’s government needed its own system to test and monitor the effectiveness of the other vaccine technologies that were available. In order to allocate mobile testing stations in a way that ensured representative samples of both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, Chile’s research team used Gurobi Optimizer to formulate an Integer Programming problem based on mobility patterns and demographic data. This allowed them to determine which census zones should be tested. The problem was formulated and solved for each of the country’s 16 regions, and the subsequent testing provided crucial evidence in support of a booster dose at a time when the need was still unclear. The early adoption of booster doses ultimately led to an estimated 29,000 fewer infections, 1,000 fewer ICU hospitalizations, and 1,000 fewer deaths.
As recipients of the Franz Edelman Award, Chile joins the ranks of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other past winners who have improved organizational efficiency, helped foster peace negotiations, and saved millions of lives. Known within the industry as the “Nobel Prize of operations research,” the competition is presented each year by INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management of Sciences).
“We’re very proud of this nomination,” said Andrés Couve, Chile’s Minister of Science. “It shows that [coordination between] the scientific community, the private sector, and the government—which is not always easy—can be done . . . and we did it in a country that is removed from the centers of science and technology, a young nation which is preparing with the scientific community to tackle future challenges. We also think that this nomination is a good opportunity to show that Chile can be an example of how science is used in public policy.”
About Gurobi Optimization
Gurobi produces the world’s fastest and most powerful mathematical optimization solver—the Gurobi Optimizer—which is used by leading global companies across more than 40 different industries to rapidly solve their complex, real-world problems and make automated decisions that optimize their efficiency and profitability. As the market leader in mathematical optimization software, we aim to deliver not only the best solver, but also the best support—so that companies can fully leverage the power of mathematical optimization (on its own or in combination with other AI techniques such as machine learning) to drive optimal business decisions and outcomes.
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