Mapping Rural Health Systems using GIS

By Ravikumar Chockalingam – Advisor and Consultant, ICTPH

Geographic Information System and spatial analysis have been on vogue for much longer than one can presume. Although they were intended to be used for defence and military purposes post the cold war, applications of GIS in public health have been seen since the times of John Snow in 1850s.

Figure 1: Hand drawn map of London looking at number of deaths due to cholera with each stack representing one death. John snow isolated the origin of the epidemic though this simple mapping exercises to a tap shown to the right. He is considered as a father of modern epidemiology

As health systems face newer challenges and look to equip themselves with newer technology as well as information systems, GIS can function as an excellent epidemiological tool as well as a tool that can provide critical information regarding outbreaks and transmission of disease, mapping of existing infrastructure as well as formative and outcome evaluation of behavior and health system interventions within specified geographic areas.

The rural health system at ICTPH, which also specializes on health information technology is currently using GIS information to support the health system model. As most GIS data in India remains private, ICTPH overcame this challenge through help of partner organizations to collect GIS based data. Spatial analysis of human resource distribution is currently available and this information will soon integrated to the large volume of health information that is collected longitudinally to present with specific targeted maps of each hamlet served by the health system model.

Attached is a poster presentation accepted at the Gephardt Institute of Public service for the poster on Faces of Hope. The objective of this mapping exercise is to look at current access within the health system pilot at the Karambayam catchment area. Two buffers (500m and 1000m) have been created around the health workers. Another buffer around the health center was created to look at access to the primary care clinic from within the hamlets.

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