Geographic Information Systems
Without geographic context, there is a critical blind spot in health systems. For instance, statistics on frequency of prenatal care and attended births are more informative when linked to communities. Data on new HIV infections are more valuable when mapped by location. And nutrition and food insecurity trends are more fully understood in relation to geography. Geographic information systems (GIS) can fill in this blind spot and provide a textured picture of public health that enables decision makers to target resources, better address health equity, and work towards stronger overall health system performance.
MEASURE Evaluation promotes the use of geospatial tools such as GIS to provide a more complete understanding of health in a community. A key capability of GIS is its ability to use the underlying geography to enable the linking of data from multiple sources. This can result in a richer comprehension of the story that the data can tell and can lead to a corresponding increase in demand and use of data. By thinking spatially, program managers can identify trends that could be difficult or impossible to detect on spreadsheets or in official reports. By thinking spatially, they can increase their ability to identify at-risk or neglected populations.
For example, fulfilling USAID’s goals for Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths (EPCMD) can be greatly facilitated with GIS tools. The initiative’s goals to focus in countries that have the largest share of deaths, to reach the most underserved groups, and to pilot innovative interventions that can be brought to scale can be achieved more effectively through GIS mapping tools.
MEASURE Evaluation promotes the use of GIS and spatial data through:
- Developing GIS tools, such as the Excel to Google Earth Thematic Mapping Tool.
- Publishing GIS manuals, such as GIS and Sampling.
- Providing GIS technical assistance; for example, working with local authorities to illustrate the potential of GIS for supporting effective programming of resources, reaching at-risk populations, and enhancing use of data for decision making.
- Managing the MEASURE Evaluation GIS Working Group, an open community that discusses the use of GIS in global health and development.
- Offering regional and global workshops on GIS for global health.
- Offering GIS online courses, such as Geographic Approaches to Global Health and