GIS Working Group Discusses Health-Mapping Frontiers

Geospatial professionals from various sectors continue to share GIS work and learn from other to further the role of geospatial tools in improving health services and M&E.

Since it was formed more than a decade ago, the MEASURE GIS Working Group has seen geographic information systems (GIS) evolve with better technologies and other advancements, providing useful tools for health providers. Mapping of existing health services, for example, has become widely used.

“In the future, I think it will go from ‘here’s where we work’ to ‘here’s where we should work,’” says John Spencer, geospatial team coordinator for MEASURE Evaluation who helped facilitate the working group’s June 26 meeting in Rosslyn, VA.

Nearly 50 people attended the group’s meeting from organizations that included the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Red Cross, and The World Bank. Presentations centered on the theme of “geospatial tools’ successes and new frontiers: data, software, capacity, and analysis.”

Spencer says the initial challenges in GIS discussed at the group’s inaugural meeting in 2000 were technology- and data-centered, including the issue of how to geocode data and train people in doing so. At the time of the 2000 meeting, software options for geospatial tools were limited. Now, Spencer believes mapping is an integral part of monitoring and evaluation, allowing users to account for the inherent geography present in health services. The role of mapping public health services will only continue to expand, he says.

A geospatial center USAID launched last year was among the developments discussed. The center aims to increase the use of geospatial tools and data among USAID partners and collaborators with related projects, ultimately building geospatial capacity and standardizing data collection and analysis across a range of health services. Spencer says the center has great potential to expand effective use of geospatial tools worldwide.

“The establishment of the USAID geospatial center is exciting because it provides the opportunity to establish and share best practices among a wide range of health providers," he says.

The working group allows geospatial professionals from various sectors to share their GIS work and learn from others in order to further the role of geospatial tools in improving health services and monitoring and evaluation.

“It’s exciting to now see where we could only dream of being 12 years ago,” says Spencer.

View presentations from the meeting.