Open Access Research article

Surveillance for the prevention of chronic diseases through information association

Juliana Tarossi Pollettini1, José Augusto Baranauskas1, Evandro Seron Ruiz1, Maria da Graça Pimentel2 and Alessandra Alaniz Macedo1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Computer Science and Mathematics - FFCLRP - University of São Paulo (USP), Ribeirão Preto-SP, Brazil

2 Department of Computer Science - ICMC - University of São Paulo, São Carlos-SP, Brazil

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BMC Medical Genomics 2014, 7:7  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-7-7

Published: 30 January 2014



Research on Genomic medicine has suggested that the exposure of patients to early life risk factors may induce the development of chronic diseases in adulthood, as the presence of premature risk factors can influence gene expression. The large number of scientific papers published in this research area makes it difficult for the healthcare professional to keep up with individual results and to establish association between them. Therefore, in our work we aim at building a computational system that will offer an innovative approach that alerts health professionals about human development problems such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.


We built a computational system called Chronic Illness Surveillance System (CISS), which retrieves scientific studies that establish associations (conceptual relationships) between chronic diseases (cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity) and the risk factors described on clinical records. To evaluate our approach, we submitted ten queries to CISS as well as to three other search engines (Google™, Google Scholar™ and Pubmed®;) — the queries were composed of terms and expressions from a list of risk factors provided by specialists.


CISS retrieved a higher number of closely related (+) and somewhat related (+/-) documents, and a smaller number of unrelated (-) and almost unrelated (-/+) documents, in comparison with the three other systems. The results from the Friedman’s test carried out with the post-hoc Holm procedure (95% confidence) for our system (control) versus the results for the three other engines indicate that our system had the best performance in three of the categories (+), (-) and (+/-). This is an important result, since these are the most relevant categories for our users.


Our system should be able to assist researchers and health professionals in finding out relationships between potential risk factors and chronic diseases in scientific papers.

Biomedical informatics; Retrieval and application of biomedical knowledge and information; Medical records and scientific papers; Ontology