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Design For Health

Mapping Health Issues with GIS: Participatory Approaches

Participatory GIS is a growing field. For those interested in integrating participatory GIS into healthy planning, several web sites provide helpful illustrations of the potential.

Public Participatory GIS based in a company called Vertices in New Brunswick, New Jersey, (http://www.ppgis.info/) provides illustrative maps on topics from bike crashes to a calculator for calories burned walking different routes. Not all maps are local, for example the public health maps rangr from alcohol sales places in New Orleans to food sales in Philadelphia.

Transparent Chennai (http://www.transparentchennai.com/), at the Institute for Financial Management and Research, uses GIS but with a focus on topics such as squatter settlements, environmental hazards, and other aspects of quality of life. What is particularly handy about this site is one can build a map from different kinds of information including environmental, political, infrastructural, and social issues: http://www.transparentchennai.com/buildamap/. This site really shows the potential for a fairly integrated yet still user driven experience that could be particularly helpful for those interested in working with communities on issues of health and place.

Part of a map from Transparent Chennai

Map Kibera (http://mapkibera.org/) started in 2009 by several NGOs in a large squatter settlement in Nairobi Kenya, reportedly was an inspiration for Transparent Chennai. The site has a lot of information apart from maps, showing how different kinds of information—spreadsheets, a blog, twitter, a wiki, and so on—can be linked.

For a more technical, expert-led approach to using GIS see the DFH Threhold Analysis HIA  and research oriented NEAT-GIS and LEAN-GIS protocols. These can however be used in a participatory setting. The Arden Hills Rapid HIA used similar maps as background information, for example (see report appendices).

My thanks to Azhar Tyabji, at the Institute for Financial Management and Research, for leading me to his colleague Nithya V. Raman (and her team’s) work on Transparent Chennai.

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