G’nY. Can geospatial technologies be of assistance to public health?
Dr Bhoop Singh : Yes of course! There is a huge potential of creating an efficient public health management system. Under the National Resources Data Management System (NRDMS) programme of the Department of Science & Technology, a sub-programme with a detailed methodology has been developed based on multiple parameters meteorological, demographic and health infrastructure data, environmental health, and more. Coupled with remote sensing data and GIS software, specific applications will yield results related to spatial distribution of selected diseases, disease risk prediction model and geospatial epidemiological analysis on hearing level data to identify specific vulnerabilities in public health infrastructure.
G’nY. What is geospatial health mapping?
Dr Bhoop Singh : Well it is quite simple geospatial health maps show various aspects of health in a layered information format. For example, disease clustering, environmental modelling of disease outbreak, vulnerability assessment for disease predictions and emergency health care may be few of the outcomes that can be used
One other thing the tool can help determine is the geographical distribution of public health infrastructure. Interestingly, information of the location of all such facilities at a village, block or even in different socio-cultural demographic settings can be easily layered with infrastructure, manpower and facilities available. This will be of enormous importance to planners as well as the common public.
G’nY. Is vector-borne diseases a priority area of GIS mapping?
Dr Bhoop Singh : You may be aware that vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and filaria depend on multiple environmental factors. Some of these may be water bodies in surrounding areas, vegetation thickness and mosquito behaviour. GIS is an excellent tool to model each of these diseases based on various environmental factors surrounding geographical bodies that aid in spreading of these diseases and place the population at risk. GIS helps in giving each affecting factor suitable attention and modelling the disease spread and outbreakhelping the development of a prediction model for each of these diseases which can simply be presented as spatial decision support system. These can be interpolated on a mapand vulnerable areas along with the incidence history can be presented. The product will assist better preparedness of state agencies.
On the other hand, non-communicable diseases and altitude sickness like hypertension, hearing loss, diabetes and many more are mostly related to the lifestyle and health habits of the individuals and are not location specific.
G’nY. What is the geospatial interoperability for public health?
Dr Bhoop Singh : This is an interesting concept. Geospatial inter-operability will be able to demonstrate the operational utility of data mining approaches for analysis of large volumes of unstructured public health data, which is obtained through crowdsourcing methods such as social media portals, including Facebook and Twitter, alongside health websites.
G’nY. What is geospatial data analysis and visualisation?
Dr Bhoop Singh : Geospatial data analysis is used to detect disease clusters by using software packages, such as SaTScan and a method of retrospective space-time permutation and the spatial models.
G’nY. Which are the states where these projects have been implemented?
Dr Bhoop Singh : We have started work in nine states! The study area for various diseases is identified based on secondary data collected from various sources. State universities and various government bodies of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Kerala are doing exemplary work.
G’nY. What would be the overall achievement of this scheme?
Dr Bhoop Singh : I believe that such an integrated national scheme is the need of the hour and can usher in enormous benefits. It has been successful in identifying local vulnerabilities within the specific population and geography and can be subsequently used for monitoring and tracking health threats with appropriate responses. The scheme has also been helpful in creating an emergency response plan while designing models which will help develop the national health information management system.