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People and GeoHealth

We have discussed almost all components of our system. We looked at spatial data, software, mapping and analytical techniques. The last remaining component are the People. People in the domain of GeoHealth can be divided in two groups: the producers of spatial information and the consumers. Each of these categories split into a number of subgroups.

Producers of spatial information

As explained earlier GeoHealth is an amalgamation of GIS and Health. Most professionals in this domain were trained either as a GIS specialist or a Health specialists. With more courses and programmes becoming available for the GeoHealth domain, this will probably change in future. This leads to three different groups: GIS specialists, Health specialists and GeoHealth specialists.

You see that I am using the word specialist. It is not easy to select the correct phrase. With the word specialist I try to indicate people with technical capacity and experience. Another group are the scientists either in the Health domain or GiScience. Their aim is not to produce spatial information but to conduct scientific research.

Consumers of spatial information

Like the group of producers of spatial information, the group of users is also very diverse. To give a few examples, maps are often used by governmental agencies to show the spatial distribution of diseases. This information can be used for decision taking and planning. The public health professional uses the information in the surveillance system to monitor disease prevalence. For the general public, webmaps are used to provide information on “risk”.

Implementation in Organization

Within the health domain, there are different ways to incorporate people with technical expertise in an organization. Some organizations like PHFI create a specific center of expertise to provide technical support. Other organizations like to hire in expertise when needed, or collaborate with other institutes that can provide this expertise. It is not completely clear which model works best. Like we have seen in data, software and analytical functionality, people can also be a hindering factor in the successful implementation and use of a GIS. When there is insufficient expertise available this can restrict or slow down the successful use of GIS.

Limitations can be summarized as:

  • Lack of technical capacity and experience in health organizations.

  • Widening gap between universities (scientists) developing advanced techniques and public health agencies trying to build basic technical expertise.

  • Lack in collaborations between different organizations with specific sub-expertise

The multi-disciplinary character of GeoHealth probably requires the collaboration between public health professionals and GIS specialists. It is important to share knowledge, skills and data to make a working GIS system.

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This article is from the free online course:

Geohealth: Improving Public Health through Geographic Information

University of Twente

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