Geographic Information Systems

MEASURE Evaluation provided guidance and technical assistance in using and adapting geographic information systems to governments, NGOs, and other decision makers around the world.

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.

Geographic Information Systems
Data Source: Revising the Costed National MVC Programme, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, 2007

MEASURE Evaluation, funded by the United States Agency for International Development, promoted the use of geospatial tools such as GIS to provide a more complete understanding of health in a community. A key attribute of GIS is its capacity to link data from multiple sources, using the underlying geography. 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 the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) goals for preventing child and maternal deaths can be greatly facilitated with GIS tools. 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 promoted the use of GIS and spatial data through: