Project Spotlight: “GOALI: Improving Medical Preparedness, Public Safety, and Security at Mass events”

photo courtesy of the Chicago Sun Times

by Michelle Diana Bradley, MPH

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the country.  The limit of 45,000 registered runners is usually reached months in advance of race day.  Millions of spectators crowd the streets of Chicago with extreme excitement to watch and cheer on runners pacing through 26.2 miles.  Public safety and security for events of this magnitude are a high priority for race organizers and officials of the City of Chicago.  Engineering and medical faculty at Northwestern University have teamed up with marathon organizers and to implement the project GOALI: Improving Medical Preparedness, Public Safety, and Security at Mass events. This project studies approaches of developing ways to reduce or eliminate any risk of harm due to natural hazards along the race route by using optimization methods1.In the case of a marathon, course design decisions are related to the route to be followed and the locations of aid stations, medical tents, and volunteers on the course 1. The multi objective model format allows the data analyst to consider the best measures of performance for the race course design1.  By coupling this information with field observations, a safe and medically accessible race course can be identified. Northwestern University faculty members working on this project include: Jennifer Chan, MD, MPH; George Chiampas, DO; Sanjay Mehrotra, PhD; and Karen Smilowitz, PhD.

Dr. Chiampas, a Chicago native, is an associate professor in Emergency Medicine here at Northwestern University.  He also serves as the medical director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  We had a chance to catch up with him after he returned back to Chicago from traveling with the US Men’s National team to the World Cup as their official doctor.  Dr. Chiampas discussed two major outcomes from this project. The first outcome being enhanced situational awareness which allows for real-time response to medical emergencies for participants at mass events.  Research investigators want to provide a way to investigate medical emergencies and security situations in a timely manner.  The second outcome will be to provide operational prospective through global leadership.  The research team will host seminars to disseminate best practices from this research to other mass events in the Chicago region and worldwide (1).  When asked what will be the most important factor in enhancing the Chicago Marathon route for runners, Dr. Chiampas replies, “resources and allocations of resources throughout the route.”

  1. Chan, J. Chiampas, G. Mehrotra, S., Nishi, M., and Smilowitz, K. (2014). GOALI: Improving Medical Preparedness, Public Safety and Security at Mass Events.  Retrieved on July 7, 2014 from

photo courtesy of the Chicago Sun Times

About NPHR Blog (254 Articles)
The is the blog of the Northwestern Public Health Review journal. The blog and journal are both student run and contain research articles, opinions, interviews and other content pertaining to public health.

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