AHRDMA Annual Scientific Meeting 2011

(NB: AHRDMA = Australasian Health & Research Data Managers Association)

Following on from some work that our Victorian Professional Services team did with our local branch of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, I was invited to present at their Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) 2011. I really enjoyed meeting many of those at the ASM and thought I’d share some of my thoughts from the Meeting.

My presentation focussed on one simple message, and it’s a message that I find myself saying in many settings: Location Intelligence has many more applications than any of us realise.

It was in 400BC that Hippocrates wrote, “Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly” should proceed by considering the seasons of the year, the winds, the type of land, the drinking water and even whether people are “fond of drinking and eating to excess or fond of exercise and labour.”. The latter, I guess, being the social demographics of the time!

Whilst epidemiology (study of the spread and control of diseases) remains a cornerstone for Geography and Health (see Dr John Snow’s work of 1854 for one of earliest examples), I had a number of discussions at the Meeting about how Location Intelligence applies across all aspects of health, from Research to Policy and Service Provision.

Health Researchers are not unique when they tell us that about 80% of their time is spent doing data management and geocoding. In fact I was chatting with a criminologist recently who agreed that 80% of their effort went towards data manipulation, leaving only 20% for the actual research and analysis.

It was these conversations that led me to consider a manifesto for geocoding in health.  In a perfect world, all data should be geocoded at source and aggregation techniques should be used for sharing de-identified data. If all data had a geocode added when it was created this would mean that the analyst wouldn’t have to spend time adding the geocode every time they wanted to analyse the data.  Building services that allow sharing of de-identified data provide the benefits of sharing whilst complying with the strict ethics and privacy rules essential for personal health information.

What impressed me most from the Meeting was that people who had never considered GIS as a tool before were so quick to come up with a huge variety of possible applications to the work they are doing everyday including clinical trials, family planning, disease management and improving community awareness of health issues.

All of us in the spatial industry continue to see this growing awareness of the value of Location Intelligence. And I think all of is in the spatial industry must realise that to continue this growth in awareness, we must continue to explain what we do to let others discover the value they can get from Location Intelligence.

– Gary J.

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