News

31 January 2012

AURIN funding to give CRCSI Health Geovisualisation Tools to urban planners

CRCSI has been funded to produce an open source version of its award-winning HealthTracks software which spatially empowers public health decision making and policy setting.

The proposed open-source version of HealthTracks and datasets will help urban researchers and policy developers in answering a multitude of urban health and well-being research questions.

The tool could for instance be used to examine the density of alcohol outlets and the health risk behaviours of local residents. Evidence from overseas suggests that alcohol is more common in low socioeconomic areas that also have higher prevalence of harmful alcohol consumption and associated adverse health outcomes. Researchers could explore these datasets for a nominated geography and demographic to guide new licensing approvals.

For further information, contact Narelle Mullan, Program Manager of CRCSI’s Health Program on nmullan@crcsi.com.au or 0418 910 940; or Prof Geoff West, Science Director of the Spatial Infrastructures Program, on gwest@crcsi.com.au

Background

Traditionally GIS has been used to display the outputs of health research and analysis using desktop software. With small numbers of skilled spatial staff and minimal resources, widespread adoption of spatial information in health has been limited. 
With the advent of publically available web-mapping capabilities including 3D representations, the public, researchers and health professionals now expect timely map-based information delivered via the web.

The CRC for Spatial Information (CRCSI) has produced innovative methods of examining health information through a collaboration amongst researchers, government and the private sector. This Demonstrator Project built two separate applications: a spatial module called HealthTracks: Mapping for mapping health and demographic information, and an epidemiology reporting tool HealthTracks: Reporting for creating population health profiles and summary health statistics in a report format.

HealthTracks has decreased the time it takes to extract summary tables, charts and maps of population-level health statistics from two months to 20 minutes. These applications are now accessed by a regular user base of over 150 users in the Department of Health Western Australia (DoHWA), including epidemiologists, data analysts and research officers, who have enabled 2500 reports to be generated. They also allow DoHWA to quickly respond to urgent needs of external users such as Medicare Locals.

In developing these applications, the Project team invested heavily in collating internal and external datasets that form the foundation of future modelling and visualisation research. CRCSI is further developing and integrating these two tools with the aim of allowing widespread access within DoHWA. This involves research into privacy issues in the context of geo-visualisation.

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