Edex News

Geo-Mapping Health Trends

Venkata Raghava’s geo-mapping of kids with lower birth weight trends won Esri’s Story Map contest, finds Blessy Mathew Prasad

Published: 01st October 2016 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2016 02:21 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

It was in 1854 that mapping was first used in the field of health and epidemiological research. An English physician, John Snow, identified the water source responsible for an outbreak of cholera in London by mapping the locations of those afflicted. Ever since, mapping has become an important tool in identifying and treating diseases.
Recently, Esri India, the international supplier of geographic information system (GIS) software, conducted a story map contest for its users in India. The contestants were asked to make compelling story maps on themes such as culture and history, environment, sustainability, travel, recreation, science, technology, education and sports.  
Dr Venkat Raghava, a professor of community health at Christian Medical College, Vellore won the first place for spatial mapping of trends and determinants of lower weight babies in rural India. “Our team analysed birth records of children in rural Kaniyambadi in Vellore from the year 1991-2010. Around 16 per cent of the 25,000 births that occurred in this block during the twenty year period were below the normal weight – 2,500 grams or 2.5 kg,” says Venkat.
The team then analysed how many of these kids’ mothers were malnourished during pregnancy and how many of them carried infections. They also analysed other possible factors such as living in areas with lesser facilities, mothers with anaemia and lesser education. It was found that all these factors impacted birth weight in the area. “Esri’s story app software is very easy to use, you don’t need to be very technically sound to feed in data, it’s pretty self-explanatory.” says Venkat.
When asked how these findings could actually help in curbing health issues, Venkat says, “The data we have collected can be used to identify vulnerable communities and ensure that they get the basic healthcare facilities. Special attention is paid to these communities so that they are aware of the nutritional necessities and are given access to it.”
The software can also be used for other purposes like town planning, traffic planning, tracking child immunizations, conducting health policy research, establishing service areas and treating major epidemics like cholera. By tracking the sources of diseases, agencies can respond more effectively by identifying at-risk populations.

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