How the New Analytical Geomatics Technologies can help Environmental Health Professionals and Decision-makers to make Further use of Mapping than what is offered traditionally by Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Web Mapping

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This review presents an analysis of geospatial applications in the health field. In this report we focus on the following technologies: spatial dashboard, spatial on line analytical processing (SOLAP), spatial data mining, and spatial data warehouse. Consequently, the report does not include a systematic review of traditional GIS of health practitioners.

For environmental health professionals and politicians, going beyond the classical GIS and web mapping systems can better support decision-making and the discovery of knowledge. Costs are substantially lower when exploiting existing data. Also, when transactional data are of excellent quality and when using mature spatial decision-support technologies, the effort required is reduced. Research work is increasing and involves collaboration with epidemiologists and other environmental health professionals. It is articulated around various aspects: improvement of methods and tools for the design of geospatial data cubes; implementation; evaluation of quality; improvement of decision-support tools; and deployment of location-based services. The emergence of mobile real time and location-based aspects implies that the future of these technologies is promising and will result in new types of services for health specialists.

Since public health organizations collect significant volumes of complex data and need systems to monitor and assess the trends related to environmental exposures and related health problems, they need to provide health specialists with the most efficient geospatial decision-support technologies. This technology can allow access to information in a timelier manner with regard to public health planning, management, and surveillance purposes. Most health data already has a spatial component, as does environmental data and population data that are often mapped. Spatial data provides the position, shape, and distribution of phenomena in territories (administrative, political, or natural). These localized phenomena make it possible to understand and compare the spatial correlations between environment and people’s health. By viewing a region based on various time periods, it allows us to assess the phenomena’s evolution. When we combine maps with statistical tables and diagrams, comparisons can lead to discovery of new knowledge.

Research in spatial data warehouses and spatial data cubes is faced with problems such as the efficient integration of time management and with space. Technological advances will be based on solutions that are accessible “everywhere”, “for everyone” and “at any time”. It will be possible to provide current decision-making information at the proper level of aggregation based on user location, and inversely, to allow the system to automatically send information to the right level of analysis based on user movements. Research projects are underway to provide new solutions both in the wireless technology research field and in geomatics.
Decision-support tools will be associated with open-source solutions, data sharing protocols and official standards.

Other research domains in geomatics are already of interest to the health community and integration with decision-support technologies is currently in progress within university laboratories. Problems specific to health; such as, constraints related to the instability of statistical rates on smaller regions and the confidentiality of data, will still subsist-although reduced by the use of aggregated data. It is also still possible that certain resistance or scientific motivation can persist and delay the adoption of these solutions in the health world, although the approach is promising.

Publication Date Nov 23, 2007
Author Proulx MJ, Bernier E, Bédard Y
Posted by NCCEH Jul 02, 2008