Health mapping in remote, rural Indonesia 

CDU's Rohan Fisher puts Indonesian Health Mapping participants through their paces.

A Charles Darwin University Research Associate has returned from West Timor after conducting an intensive training course in health mapping for locals.

Rohan Fisher, from the School of Environmental and Life Sciences, hosted 30 participants from islands all over the eastern Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur to  learn innovative low cost techniques for epidemiological and health infrastructure mapping.

Mr Fisher said that using free and open source geographic information software (GIS) along with inexpensive mobile phone-based field data collection tools, district health staff developed skills to analyse and improve the quality of their health data.

“Previous participants in this AusAID-funded program presented results from their health mapping activities,” he said.

A broad range of examples were given of how health mapping is now being used to inform health resource allocation, project development and advocacy including: comprehensive health service audits in remote, regional districts; innovative maternal and neonatal health analysis including the mobile mapping of pregnant women to ensure access to trained health staff for birth.

Mr Fisher said participants commented that their previous exposure to GIS technology had been unnecessarily complex and expensive while the software and training material developed by CDU allowed for the easy adoption and integration of spatial mapping into their daily work.

“The results so far have shown a revolution in spatial data use, whereas GIS is usually in the hands of a techno-elite, this project has given the power of spatial visualisation to empower better service delivery to rural health workers in a developing country.”