Health GIS Tidbits

Clearing just 4% of forested land in parts of the Amazon can significantly raise the risk of contracting malaria in local communities, according to a study published today in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“Adjusting for population, access to care, and district size, we found that malaria risk increased ≈50% in health districts when 4% of the area underwent deforestation in 1997–2000,” write Sarah Olson of the University of Wisconsin, USA, and colleagues.

The study and the work it built on use satellite imagery to determine the deforestation.

- Emerging Health Threats Forum

The State of New York recently released its maps of cancer diagnoses in the state after some controversy about the wisdom of sharing that information (APB coverage: 1, 2). Now comes the question: Would this be a good idea in Asia? FutureGov got one answer from Dr Fawzi Amin, Assistant Undersecretary for Training & Planning, Ministry of Health, Bahrain:

...cancer maps would be most useful for big countries with populations living in isolated areas. “With a small country like Bahrain, however, which has a population that moves in dynamic ways, it would be difficult to relate cause with any disease, especially cancer, which has several etiological causes.”

Amin points to a recent case in Bahrain when a Member of Parliament accused an oil refinery in his area of being responsible for a rise in the incidences of certain cancer type. “He said the refinery was causing cancer in his area without considering age distribution as a causal factor of that type of cancer. This is just one risk of linking the geographical area with the incidence of chronic diseases.”

That frankly sounds like the issues raised with the New York maps: that most people would jump to conclusions with raw data maps.

- FutureGov

In June the Office of Management and Budget got two initiatives up and running. One is a “Do Not Pay List” which is exactly what it appears to be: a list of people and if they are entitled to payment. If you are dead, you are not, for example. The other is a map-based fraud identification tool developed by ESRI. From the OMB blog:

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RATB) has deployed a cutting-edge fraud mapping tool that leverages the latest technologies in data capture and analytics to identify potential fraud and error. As frequent readers of this blog will know, I am a huge fan of data and am really impressed by this tool. It gathers enormous quantities of information – in real time – and then analyzes the data and helps connect the dots to identify indicators of possible fraud or error.

The RATB has pioneered and refined the tool, and today, we are starting to roll it out for use across government. We are doing it first at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a natural place to start since Medicare and Medicaid combined had about $65 billion in improper payments in FY 2009 – including about $47 billion in Medicare alone. This will help to meet the President’s goal of cutting the improper payment rate in Medicare in half by 2012.

- Fierce Health IT
- OMB Blog
- Fact Sheet on the Fraud Mapping Tool (pdf)

HIV/AIDS data for the Middle East has been hard to come by, but a new study, gathering existing data suggests some patterns. The report, characterizing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa, is a joint effort of the World Bank, the UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to UNAIDS, about 412,000 people were living with HIV in MENA by the end of 2008, up from 270,000 in 2001. The report said most new infections were from within commercial sex and drug-taking populations.

The report divides the MENA region into two categories according to HIV prevalence: the “subregion with considerable prevalence” (Djibouti, Somalia, Southern Sudan); and the Core MENA region, where HIV prevalence is described as “very limited” (the rest of MENA countries).

Sadly, the existing data is not a good basis for a strategy to tackle HIV/AIDS:

Experts said that despite all the information from different sources that the new report brings together, the region still does not have enough data to form a coherent strategy to tackle HIV/AIDS. The report conceded that the MENA region “continues to be viewed as the anomaly in the HIV/AIDS world map”.

“This is because we have not invested enough in building the right surveillance systems, so we don’t have systems that actually detect and follow up on this issue,” Hind Khatib, regional director of UNAIDS, told IRIN.

- IRIN Global

Published Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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