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MITRE’s Sara Alert™ Public Health Tool Receives 2021 Innovation Award 

By Aishia Caryn Freeman

The first lines of defense against infectious disease are containment and mitigation. For automating public health coronavirus response with Sara Alert™, MITRE is an American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council Innovation Award Winner.

Sara Alert™ forever changed the way public health departments conduct contact tracing and symptom monitoring, making it easier to communicate symptoms remotely and get health information to caretakers faster.

During an outbreak, automated symptom monitoring and contact tracing allows overwhelmed public health departments to better manage time and resources. Sara Alert’s remote monitoring of symptoms via email, text, or phone, provides public health professionals real-time insights and significantly reduces their workload. For enabling this technology, MITRE is an American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) Innovation Award winner for 2021.

“It’s an honor to accept this prestigious award on behalf of MITRE, our sponsors, and our Sara Alert team,” Kim Warren, vice president and director, Health FFRDC, says.

ACT-IAC is a non-profit educational organization established to create a more effective and innovative government. Thirteen award winners were selected by a panel of judges from 169 nominations.

46 Million and Counting

Before Sara Alert, there was no efficient way for public health departments to track people with infectious disease. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sara Alert has served a population of over 46 million in nearly 700 jurisdictions within eight states, six counties, three territories, one city, one freely associated state, and one tribal public health authority.

Sara Alert was the brainchild of Paul Jarris, who recently retired as chief medical adviser of MITRE's health program and led the Sara Alert effort. He set out to build an enduring public health tool accessible to everyone.

“In January of 2020, months before COVID really changed all our lives, we knew that public health needed help responding to pandemics and other infectious disease outbreaks," Warren explains. "They needed a system to save them precious time and resources as they worked to contain the spread. From that need came the idea of Sara Alert."

Supporting Public Health, Serving Communities 

Using an agile process deeply embedded in public health positioned Sara Alert to respond quickly to a rapidly changing pandemic. Sara Alert promotes the efficient exchange of information, reduces the burden on public health, and rapidly identifies people who may need medical assistance.

Automating symptom monitoring and contact tracing allows healthcare workers to tend to the urgently ill and minimize contact with those who may overwhelm health systems.

Sara Alert is deployed in highly challenged remote U.S. territories and freely associated states. Local jurisdictions also deploy Sara Alert in languages that reflect the diversity of their communities. Nearly 4 million individuals have been monitored with Sara Alert by over 10,000 users.

Warren notes, “We’d like to recognize and thank all of the public health professionals across the country. These are our heroes—and have been during this crisis. They worked tirelessly during this pandemic to protect our nation. We’re honored that Sara Alert could help them in some way as they work each day to protect our communities.”