Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • OSHA Launches New Version of its Heat Safety Tool App to Keep Workers Safe in Summer Weather

    Last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new version of its Heat Safety Tool mobile app for iOS just in time for the summer heat.

    OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool was initially launched in 2011 as a key part of OSHA’s campaign to help outdoor workers prevent heat illness, which sickens thousands and results in the deaths of more than 30 workers each year. The app tells employers and workers about the current conditions outside, the forecasted temperature maximum for the day, and provides information to help users plan work schedules accordingly and take other precautions to help prepare for extreme heat. With nearly 200,000 downloads since its launch, the app has been one of the most successful mobile apps developed by the Federal government. However, the app had not received a major update or new features in the last four years. Because of this, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program began working with OSHA to help modernize the app.

    Screenshots from the OSHA Heat app.

  • Using Data and Technology to Advance Community Policing

    We’ve launched a Police Data Initiative that’s helping … innovative cities use data to strengthen their work and hold themselves accountable by sharing it with the public.

    -President Obama

    Two weeks ago, in Camden, NJ, the President announced the launch of the Police Data Initiative. The effort is a fast response from the White House, working with 21 leading police departments across the country, to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which made recommendations encouraging better use of data and technology to build community trust and reduce inappropriate uses of force. 

  • Pledge to Love, Protect, and Cherish Antibiotics

    This week's White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship was a landmark event. The Forum spotlighted more than 150 unprecedented Federal and private-sector commitments that will help preserve antibiotic effectiveness by reducing the unnecessary uses that promote resistance in human and animal pathogens. These important commitments will help save lives and reduce suffering.

    President Obama also signed a memorandum committing Federal departments and agencies to create a preference for meat and poultry produced according to responsible antibiotic-use policies. In addition, the Presidential Food Service has committed to serving meats and poultry that have been produced without antibiotics.

    The Forum was an important event in my tenure at the White House because in addition to being central to my scientific identity as a bacteriologist, the Forum also meant a lot to me personally.

  • Back to the Future: Using Historical Dengue Data to Predict the Next Epidemic

    What would you do if you could see the future?  What would change?  If you asked CDC biologist Michael Johansson, he would tell you he’d like to know what kind of summer it’s going to be in Puerto Rico – how bad will this year’s dengue season be?

    Dengue is a mosquito-transmitted viral disease affecting millions of people every year, including U.S. travelers and residents of the tropical regions of the U.S. like Puerto Rico. Experts estimate that around 390 million dengue infections occur worldwide each year, including about 500,000 severe cases – mostly children -- requiring hospitalization. Case counts are climbing as the disease moves into new areas.  Dengue is now endemic in more than 100 countries and several U.S. territories. In endemic areas, major epidemics occur roughly every 3-5 years overwhelming medical services, so anticipating epidemics has the potential to save lives.  The risk to U.S. travelers is on the rise, and in recent years, local dengue outbreaks have struck the continental United States where the Aedes vector mosquitoes are endemic.

    Accurate dengue predictions would help public health workers, like Johansson, and people around the world take steps to reduce the impact of these epidemics. But predicting dengue is a hefty task that calls for the consolidation of different data sets on disease incidence, weather, and the environment.

    Several departments in the U.S. Federal Government (Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, and Department of Commerce) have joined together, with the support of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), to design an infectious disease forecasting project with the aim of galvanizing efforts to predict local epidemics of dengue. 

    This project launches on June 5, 2015, when the U.S. Government will provide access to datasets for developing forecast models to anyone/team interested in participating.  Participants will have access to new data, a chance to test their modeling capabilities, and an opportunity to improve public health. 

  • Help Us Strengthen Open Government

    Since the United States joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011, U.S. agencies have been working alongside civil society to develop and implement commitments to increase transparency, improve participation, and curb corruption. From opening up Federal spending data to make it easier to see how taxpayer dollars are spent, to the We the People online petition site where the public can propose U.S. policy changes, to strengthening efforts to deny safe haven in the U.S. to corrupt individuals, our efforts to advance open government are making an impact.

    Consistent with the commitment to the Open Government Partnership, later this year the United States plans to publish a third Open Government National Action Plan (NAP) including new and expanded open government initiatives to pursue in the next two years. The first U.S. NAP was published in 2011 and the second NAP — which is still being implemented through the end of 2015 — was published in 2013.

    These plans are a true team effort — governments work alongside civil society in all 65 OGP countries to develop and implement the efforts within the plans. Over the next several months, we encourage you to contribute your ideas and work with us to build an ambitious third NAP!

  • White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship Convenes Government and Private Sector Leaders Committed to Improving Antibiotic Prescribing

    Few of us remember the time before antibiotics, when a simple infection could kill. With these miracle drugs, we opened the doors to the world of modern medicine, making surgery and even transplants not just safe, but possible.

    And yet, 70 years after discovering penicillin, we face a new reality: The more we use antibiotics, the faster they lose their effectiveness.  Some infectious bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to the drugs designed to kill them, making them less and less effective in their ability to fight infection and illness.  Overuse and misuse of these drugs in humans and animals, could push us closer to a world where we are challenged to be able to treat and prevent some of even the simplest infections. 

    That’s why working to improve antibiotic use and combating the threat of antibiotic resistance is so important.  The Administration is committed to leading efforts to change how antibiotics are prescribed and used to address this growing health risk.