Geographical Information Management Approaches: Improvements in Health and Social Care

Geographical Information Management Approaches: Improvements in Health and Social Care

Maria José Lucena e Vale (FE - Catholic University, Portugal & Directorate General for Territorial Development, Portugal) and Filipa Vale (FE - Catholic University, Portugal & Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM), Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3990-4.ch010
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Abstract

The existence of adequate and reliable information to assess population health is essential to build solid strategies for public health promotion and social care, as to help demonstrate efficient investment in these areas. There are several health-related databases, covering different scales: World, Europe, or National, including several datasets with different details. These different datasets should be reviewed and selected on the basis of their ability to support efficient strategies associated with monitoring population health and their usefulness in the promotion of health care efficiency. To understand the relevance of these database infrastructures when integrated with Web-based, geographical information management tools, and use these to improve the knowledge of health issues, this chapter integrates examples related to enhancing the performance analysis of this collaborative spatial data infrastructure in three distinct areas: national health systems and health care; disease prevalence studies in different countries, and integrated analysis of environment quality and public health.
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Introduction

Promoting public health and meeting population’s health care expectations is a growing concern of most developed countries. The problem is quite relevant for developed countries, where demographic sustainability is a main concern considering population aging.

An aging population increases health and social care demands, which leads to problems related with financial sustainability of national public health and social services. There is a crucial demand of efficiency in these fields and thus it will be necessary to do more with the same, or less financial resources.

The existence of adequate and reliable information to assess population health and social care needs is essential to build solid strategies for public health promotion and social care, as to help demonstrating efficient investment in these fields. This is particularly important in countries experiencing socio-economic crisis.

Most developed countries have databases that gather population health information parameters as well as information on health care providers. There are several health related databases, covering different geographical areas: the World, Europe or the National level; and including different thematic datasets with different detail approaches.

These different datasets should be able to be reviewed, updated and selected considering their ability to support efficient strategies associated with monitoring population health and social problems and their usefulness in promotion health care efficiency.

This chapter introduces a new spatial information management approach to support problem solving related to health and social care: a collaborative Web based spatial data infrastructure integrating Geographical Information management tools and distributed databases to achieve efficiency in solving health care related problems.

To understand the relevance of this collaborative Web based spatial data infrastructure, to deal with public health issues, this chapter integrates three examples related to enhancing the performance analysis in three distinct areas:

  • 1.

    National health systems and health care: Analysis of the distribution of health care units in an European region (Alentejo, Portugal) in order to optimize the whole performance;

  • 2.

    Epidemiological study of Helicobacter pylori: infection prevalence in children from different countries and their correlation with sanitation level and safety of drinking water sources specific for each country;

  • 3.

    Integrated analysis of environment quality and public health: the analysis of air quality in urban areas, integrated with Portuguese population distribution in urban areas, and Health Care location.

These three case studies illustrate the advantages of using information technology to build integrated and efficient solutions concerning public health problems.

  • Example 1: Relates the historical context of public health with spatial population distribution considering age and shows that it is possible to adjust health care needs with the distribution of health care units and their resources in order to better achieve population needs. This example also illustrates the advantage of integrating accessibility to health care units, minimizing travel times of the populations and enhancing home network treatment.

  • Example 2: Analysis of two different risk factors, access to safe drinking water and sanitation, exploring their contribution to H. pylori infection, whose transmission mode in not yet clear. The geographic overlap of high prevalence rates of infection and low percentage of both highlighted risk factors permits to draw preventive measures.

  • Example 3: Allows understanding the interrelationships between health prevention strategies and environmental quality. Furthermore, it shows the relevance of geographical information to health care services adjustment and the relevance of promoting environmental quality to increase levels and efficiency of the public health system.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Risk Factors: An attribute or an exposition that increases the probability of an eventual outcome, such as a disease.

Search Engine: Information management application developed to deal with Web knowledge entropy.

Health Indicator: A variable that can be used as a direct measure to access the health status of individuals from a community.

Surveillance: The continuous evaluation of a disease or health variable using uniform, rapid, precise, and accurate methods.

Spatial Data Infrastructure: Distributed Databases Collection, Geographical information systems Web based tools and search engine capabilities integrated in a collaborative based interface in order to enable knowledge based discussions and problem solving.

Public Health: Organized society efforts in motion in order to increase and promote population’s health.

Risk Factors: An attribute or an exposition that increases the probability of an eventual outcome, such as a disease.

Spatial Data Infrastructure: Distributed Databases Collection, Geographical information systems Web based tools and search engine capabilities integrated in a collaborative based interface in order to enable knowledge based discussions and problem solving.

Public Health: Organized society efforts in motion in order to increase and promote population’s health.

Search Engine: Information management application developed to deal with Web knowledge entropy.

Health Indicator: A variable that can be used as a direct measure to access the health status of individuals from a community.

Geographic Information System: Information management tool that enables users to access, analyze, and integrate spatial data.

Health Database: A comprehensive set of health data and health variables.

Health Database: A comprehensive set of health data and health variables.

Surveillance: The continuous evaluation of a disease or health variable using uniform, rapid, precise, and accurate methods.

Geographic Information System: Information management tool that enables users to access, analyze, and integrate spatial data.

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