Department of non-leading indicators

By Megan McArdle

When you care enough to send the very best:

The e-card, which allows the sender to select the disease involved and includes links to public health sites and services, is part of that strategy. "Notifying the person exposed to a sexually transmitted infection is the critical piece in preventing further spread," said Dr. Susan Blank, New York City's assistant health commissioner for sexually transmitted disease. "And as the reach of the Internet expands for use in finding instant sex partners, we're using that technology as part of the solution."

Along with eight other cities and three states, New York City has been working with inSPOT, the online partner notification system through which Steve, in San Francisco, received his syphilis e-card. (It is currently aimed at gay men but is expanding its audience to include heterosexuals, and plans to start a national site this year.)

The system was developed in 2004 by Internet Sexuality Information Services, a nonprofit agency in Oakland, Calif., with the support of health officials in San Francisco. Deb Levine, the agency's executive director, said two factors in San Francisco led to the idea: the rise in Internet use among men who have sex with men, and an increase in syphilis among that group.

On the one hand, it's not really a product you want--but on the other hand, it's a product you might need. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/01/department-of-non-leading-indicators/131/