The Ministry of Health has a new tool to assist in the management of environmental health data.?? It is the Geographic Information System (GIS).
In a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Environmental Health Assistant, Shane Kirton explained that the GIS allowed for the viewing, understanding, questioning, interpretation and visualisation of data.?? ??The GIS reveals relationships, patterns and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports and charts.?? It has been in use at the Ministry ??on a pilot basis, since August 2009.
"The GIS helps us to answer questions and solve problems by looking at data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared," Mr. Kirton said, pointing out that it could also be used as an epidemiological tool to determine outbreaks and to identify trends and relationships for prompt intervention.??
He noted that the system was now fully utilised and was being used to map aedes agypti mosquito breeding sites, but could also be employed to assist in disaster management, by identifying susceptible groups such as the elderly, the youth and disabled persons; and to identify hazardous areas, such as water zones, dumping sites and flood-prone areas.
According to the Environmental Health Assistant, the GIS allowed for a focus on high risk areas such as zones with a proliferation of mosquitoes, as well as confirmed dengue cases.??
"In terms of dengue, we look at complaints coming into the office, at dengue cases, throughout the island and also the positive houses and containers, that is, where we find mosquitoes breeding.?? We need to prioritise, and GIS helps us to do that," Mr. Kirton stressed.??
Information is fed into the system from the polyclinics and the Leptospira Lab.?? "We take all the information and map the data into the system. [An officer] will then give someone in the department the data and we will map that information and then overlay it to give us an idea on what to focus on," he added.
The Environmental Health Assistant revealed that the GIS had been used in January this year, to carry out a pre-comprehensive assessment of Bridgetown to identify public health problems.??
"We took a look at all the illegal dump sites, defective drainage, the refuse and all the environmental health hazards in Bridgetown.?? You may see an illegal dump site maybe in Green Park Lane and there may be another one on Chapman Street. While it may seem to be two separate localities but on the map you can see they are a mere 100 metres apart.?? So that means that the problem in Green Park Lane could be causing problems over in Chapman Street.?? Having this data mapped into our system allows us to see the relationships and the trends," he disclosed.
The system is also being used for rodent control and has mapped all the rodent bait stations in Bridgetown.??
"We have over 400 stations and on a monthly basis we look at the data and the maps to see where the stations are, and where the empty ones are, so we will know if there is any improvement in the rodent control conditions in the City, and that helps tremendously.?? The GIS is also used to aid our fogging programme where we monitor the dengue cases and the mosquito complaints to determine where we should actually fog," Mr. Kirton said.
The GIS has also being utilised by other departments of Government, including the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services Department and the Coastal Zone Management Unit of the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and Drainage.??
In Agriculture, with the assistance of the Caribbean Amblyomma Programme, the GIS was used for the plotting of all Amblyomma Variegatum (TBT), tick infested farms throughout the island. ??With the threat of avian influenza,some years ago, risk analysis was carried out to identify potential sources of introduction based on the available GIS data. ??
As data across Ministries is collected and compiled, it is envisaged that a national GIS will eventually be utilised to integrate catchments; identify environmental health trends; facilitate evidence-based decision making; build the capacity and capability of personnel and provide accurate and up-to-date firstname.lastname@example.org