Customers & Industries: EpiX Analytics/University of London

University of London and EpiX Analytics Teach @RISK in Health and Food Safety Postgraduate Certificate

  • Industry: Food Safety, Academic, Government
  • Product(s): @RISK
  • Application: Health and food safety

Summary

EpiX Analytics teamed up with the University of London - Royal Veterinary College to launch an academic Postgraduate Certificate in Risk Analysis in Health and Food Safety. The Certificate is the first recognized qualification in risk analysis in health and food safety, awarded by the University of London and utilizes @RISK to provide training.

With easy to use features, @RISK is a powerful tool used in decision support. Its user friendly interface helps facilitate the teaching of complex mathematical concepts to professionals from a wide range of backgrounds, from the advanced modeler to the occasional Excel user that has never worked in quantitative risk analysis.
Dr. Francisco Zagmutt, Managing Partner, EpiX Analytics

Risk analysis is increasingly being used to support decisions relevant to national food safety and animal health policies as well as international trade agreements, with an overall goal of reducing the probability and impact of diseases in animals and humans. This has led to a growing demand for suitably qualified risk analysts and cutting-edge risk analysis practices in health and food safety. With a long track record in delivering quantitative risk analysis training to the health, epidemiology and food safety communities, EpiX Analytics has teamed up with the Veterinary Epidemiology, Economics and Public Health Group of the University of London - Royal Veterinary College in London, UK to launch an academic Postgraduate Certificate in Risk Analysis in Health and Food Safety. The Certificate is the first recognized qualification in risk analysis in health and food safety, awarded by the University of London and utilizes @RISK to provide this training.

About EpiX Analytics

EpiX Analytics provides pragmatic answers to decision-makers using sound quantitative methods. Using their extensive analytical experience and the most current probabilistic modeling methods, EpiX Analytics’ consultants provide risk analysis and decision modeling services to a variety of industries including pharmaceuticals, oil & gas, manufacturing, private equity, insurance and health and food safety. Since the company’s inception in 2003, EpiX Analytics has trained nearly a thousand professionals, of which many were specialized in health and food safety.

Growing concerns about food and health safety

Government authorities and the food industry are facing increasingly complex challenges to mitigate risks associated with food-borne and trans-boundary diseases as well as emerging diseases such as zoonoses, infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans. In order to train professionals to quantify these risks and improve health and food safety, EpiX Analytics partnered with the Royal Veterinary College at University of London to teach how to apply risk analysis skills to various domains including human health, public health, epidemiology, and animal health surveillance.

Why @RISK?

EpiX Analytics utilizes @RISK, a user-friendly simulation tool to facilitate the teaching of complex risk analysis concepts to professionals. With @RISK, participants can conduct probabilistic analysis and use modeling techniques to model biological processes relevant to health and food safety problems regardless of their prior modeling expertise. In general terms, @RISK helps decision-makers answer risk questions pertaining to health and food safety that involve uncertainty and variability. For example, diagnostic test are key to identify contamination in food or disease in humans, but diagnostic tests used in practice have certain level of error. For example, if 100 people are tested and none of them have a positive diagnostic test, what is the probability that the disease is still present? Or there may be uncertainty about a test to identify E.Coli in ground beef and therefore, the possible effect that this undetected contamination may have on people’s health.

EpiX Analytics’ courses in risk in health and food safety use a combination of theoretical and practical activities, and the many example problems allow participants to apply and reinforce the concepts and techniques presented,” continues Dr. Zagmutt. “The increasing use of risk analysis to support national health and food safety policies, and international trade agreements has led to a growing demand for sound, state of the art risk analysis practices. Toward this end, we have worked on many different practical applications of @RISK in food safety and health.” For example, EpiX Analytics uses @RISK to teach how to evaluate the burden of food-borne diseases in populations. Using Monte Carlo Simulation, students are taught how to determine a range of possibilities including the likelihood of bacterial contamination at different points of the farm-to-fork chain, growth of bacteria in different conditions, conditions of transport and storage of food products, frequency of purchase/consumption of food products, portion of food product per person per meal or dose-response model for the bacteria found. Another common use of @RISK in this arena is in the evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of different health technologies in a population. For example, should a seasonal vaccine be used in all populations, or is it more cost-effective to use it in individuals at higher risk of infection. Or what is the optimal time interval to screen for certain types of cancer, while minimizing the risk of costly diagnostic errors? Dr. Zagmutt further elaborates, “Utilizing @RISK, our course team teaches graduates how to reduce the impact of diseases in national or regional populations of people or animals by better understanding how diseases spread, and what impact different disease control programs have. It also helps understand the impact of disease surveillance programs and how to mitigate the impact of food borne diseases by quantifying the impacts of different mitigation strategies at different levels.” Professor Pfeiffer, head of the Veterinary Epidemiology, Economics and Public Health Group in the Department of Production and Population Health at the RVC, who has used @RISK for many years, concludes: “We deal with issues that have significant health risks to animals and humans, as well as economic impact, and it is critical therefore that our supporting software is powerful, sophisticated and flexible, in addition to producing highly accurate figures. @RISK ensures that we provide the various bodies that depend on our knowledge and experience with the best possible solution available to them.”

Commonly utilized techniques for quantitative analysis include:

Bayesian methods, likelihood-free estimation methods, two-dimensional modeling, Bootstrapping, classical statistics, stochastic time series modeling.

Example 1. Actual ('Data') and predicted burden of illness. Note that the actual burden of illness was very close to what the probabilistic model predicted.

Example 2. Number of people infected/yr due to a certain food safety risk.

Commonly utilized distributions include:

Many univariate distributions readily available in @RISK are used to fit data inputs and/or simulate biological processes. For example, commonly used distributions are: Binomial, Beta, NegBin, Poisson, Gamma, Hypergeometric, Normal, LogNormal, Pert, Weibull and Uniform. Multivariate distributions such as the Dirichlet and Multinomial and multivariate normal are ‘manually’ constructed using probability models available in @RISK.

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