FROM THE RESEARCH TEAM: USING GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS TO HELP UNDERSTAND HEALTH SEEKING BEHAVIOUR

BY KIMBER HADDIX MCKAY, RESEARCH, MONITORING AND EVALUATION DIRECTOR

In recent years we’ve used geographic information systems (GIS) to allow us to visualize, analyse, and interpret data we collect in our project sites, in order to better understand patterns and trends. The system captures, stores and displays different kinds of data on one map and is particularly useful to help us understand geospatial variation in things like the uptake of the innovations we’ve introduced in the villages, or patterns of behaviour relating to both health and health-seeking behaviour

We love GIS analyses – so many people are visual learners and we can see or appreciate trends presented in a geospatial manner that would otherwise be hard to understand in charts and graphs. For example, in Humla, we have been operating mobile medical camps for the past few years. These camps deliver health care to people in villages where there is no health post, or where the health post has not been well-equipped, staffed or supplied. In Humla this is quite common, in large part due to the remoteness of the District, but also because of the damage still felt from the years of political instability, which weakened an already-weak health infrastructure like health posts and hospitals.

Adara has partially filled this gap with mobile medical camps, which operate each October and November in the District, delivering health care, vaccinations, and care to thousands of patients. We carefully collect information from each camp attendee in order to help us understand how the camps are serving their needs, and to identify gaps in health care delivery.

We have recently begun to appreciate the importance of understanding the distance and duration of the trip that villagers take to reach these camps. Even though the camps are ‘mobile’ they still do not reach every single settlement in the District. This means that people have to walk, sometimes quite long distances, to reach them. It is critical for us to locate the camps strategically in order to maximize their utility and to provide the best care to the largest number of potential attendees. Our GIS analysis has helped us map out things like camp attendance, and even allows us to break down camp attendance by age, gender, among pregnant or not pregnant women, among women with help at home with kids or agricultural duties, and those without.

At Adara, we are committed to using all the research tools at our disposal to improve upon the work our field staff engage in the villages where we work. GIS has given us an opportunity to see trends we otherwise wouldn’t have known existed and to bring that learning into focus as we modify and improve projects every year.

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