Interpretability of epidemiological models is a key consideration, especially when these models are used in a public health setting. Interpretability is strongly linked to the identifiability of the underlying model parameters, i.e., the ability to estimate parameter values with high confidence given observations. In this paper, we define three separate notions of identifiability that explore the different roles played by the model definition, the loss function, the fitting methodology, and the quality and quantity of data. We define an epidemiological compartmental model framework in which we highlight these non-identifiability issues and their mitigation.
External Author: Nayana Bannur
Accurate forecasts of infections for localized regions are valuable for policy making and medical capacity planning. Existing compartmental and agent-based models for epidemiological forecasting employ static parameter choices and cannot be readily contextualized, while adaptive solutions focus primarily on the reproduction number. The current work proposes a novel model-agnostic Bayesian optimization approach for learning model parameters from observed data that generalizes to multiple application-specific fidelity criteria. Empirical results point to the efficacy of the proposed method with SEIR-like models on COVID-19 case forecasting tasks. A city-level forecasting system based on this method is being used for COVID-19 response in a few impacted Indian cities.
During an epidemic, accurate long term forecasts are crucial for decision-makers to adopt appropriate policies and to prevent medical resources from being overwhelmed. This came to the forefront during the covid-19 pandemic, during which there were numerous efforts to predict the number of new infections. Various classes of models were employed for forecasting including compartmental models and curve-fitting approaches. Curve fitting models often have accurate short term forecasts. Their parameters, however, can be difficult to associate with actual disease dynamics. Compartmental models take these dynamics into account, allowing for more flexible and interpretable models that facilitate qualitative comparison of scenarios. This paper proposes a method of strengthening the forecasts from compartmental models by using short term predictions from a curve fitting approach as synthetic data. We discuss the method of fitting this hybrid model in a generalized manner without reliance on region specific data, making this approach easy to adapt. The model is compared to a standard approach; differences in performance are analyzed for a diverse set of covid-19 case counts.