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Hitachi Vantara and data solutions startup BurstIQ today announced the COVID-19 Data Challenge in partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA). The contest is an effort to promote research into the relationship between the coronavirus and other health conditions, as well as health disparities and the effect of social factors on health outcomes. Data sets provided by BurstIQ will be available on the ASA’s Precision Medicine Platform to help researchers determine the extent to which ethnicity, gender, geography, and income contribute to COVID-19 mortality rates. Hitachi Vantara, which built the platform, will furnish more than $100,000 in prizes over the course of the challenge.

Data on the intersection of race, under-resourced communities, and the coronavirus is limited so far, but studies suggest disproportionately high rates of illness among African Americans, U.S. Hispanics, Native Americans, and those in rural areas. That could be because members of these groups lack the financial reserves to cover expenses in case of an emergency, according to the Pew Center, or because there are sharp racial and ethnic differences when it comes to experiences with COVID-19 or concerns about catching and spreading the virus.

Whatever the case, the COVID-19 Data Challenge is intended to accelerate investigations into these concerns with the help of cloud-based analytics. Applicants will be afforded access to the Precision Medicine Platform’s AWS-hosted workspaces, which offer an array of machine learning tools, and will be permitted to bring their own de-identified COVID-19 data sets. But their analyses must consider health disparities such as poverty; environmental threats; inadequate access to health care; individual and behavioral factors; and educational inequalities and social determinants like food supply, housing, economic and social relationships, education, and health care. Research will be peer-reviewed by a panel of six data science and public health experts.

Six $5,000 prizes will be awarded following the first stage of the challenge, after which the researchers will compete in a final stage for a $15,000 prize. Stage one begins today and ends on July 12, and the second stage is scheduled to start September 1 and conclude November 1.

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