GIS in Health Sector

Health care professionals across geographic es use geo-spatial technology as a weapon in their fight against dreaded diseases. The use of location or geographical information in modern health care find its root in public health information (PHI) , which means the application of information science and technology to public health practice and research. Better public health information leads to improved health Geomatics where the location is central, thus making GIS relevant and useful in health care. Primary it is applied in the areas of epidemiology, public health and medical geography. Spatial data is used to establish the correlation or the lack of it between location and health, layers of useful information are added to show a relationship with local factor using a GIS.

                                        “Infectious diseases that were formerly confined to remote areas now have the ability to expand their geographic range, jump species, become resistant to antimicrobial agents and have become more virulent and frequently,” says Eddie Oldfield, member, OGC. “The combination of Geospatial data from earth observing systems and public health surveillance can be used improve public health decision making, policy-relevant analysis, and disease control,” he adds.

Today mapping and field surveys are the most commonly used techniques simply translating the patients addresses into longitudes and latitudes’ to pinpoint their location on earth. For e.g., the WHO generates maps to help health care agencies in understanding dengue and malaria incidences across the globe. “Early detection is crucial when people are being exposed to potentially fatal diseases and geospatial technology enables us to detect and respond to disease in time. Disease map help the local officials in their fight against infectious disease,” says  Dr. Atul Agarwal, who headed the polio program in northern India under the aegis of Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAS).

Researchers are also increasingly relying on remote sensing technique to capture the predict the signature characteristics of parasites and predict the spread of vector- borne diseases like malaria. The efforts are based on the fact that the spatial distribution of vectors is dependent on environmental conditions like temperature and humidity. The technique is coupled with ground survey to determine and confirm the presence of parasites. Similarly satellite imaginary helps in  presence of sources, breeding and resting sites of parasites

Internet search trends also play an important role in locating the presence of a particular disease, points out goggles chief technology advocate Michael Jones. For instance , if Google find thousands of people searching for symptoms or treatment for a particular disease in a particular location within a span of few days, it informs the local healthcare authorities about a possible disease outbreak in that area. This is how Google provides WHO with one week early notice about flu all around the world. Google also offers online tools such as the Dengue Trends and Flu trends.


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