i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Another look at Space and Health in Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on June 11, 2008

As it is known ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. Space technology has the potential of detecting the environmental factors responsible for the spread of disease. These factors are now compared with existing institutional health records and ground evidence to develop models that depict the patterns of disease spread. The models are further tested and validated to prove their accuracy and predictive capability. The ensuing systems can be used in simulating disease epidemiology (eg. the effect of climate change), thus acting as decision support systems to aid in preventive efforts.

(Source: Action Team 6, Communications Research Centre, Canada)

These systems vary in complexity due to the relationships between the vectors or host characteristics studied, the influencing environmental factors and the mathematical tools used in modelling the disease for the Geographic Information Systems. Some can even predict disease epidemics months before they occur, in which case preventive measures such as education, immunization and active surveillance can be instituted. This would certainly reduce the morbidity and mortality due to these preventable diseases and as the disease burden reduces over time, the chances that effective control measures can eventually result in extinction of some of these diseases exist. Climate change, globalization, and urbanization are some of the factors responsible for the emergence and re-emergence of certain diseases in places around the globe where they were previously unknown. SST can be used to predict and monitor these changes in global trends of disease spread and assist in developing the institutional capability to handle these threats. This challenge is a major reason why there is renewed international interest in disease epidemiology in Africa.

Development of the field of landscape epidemiology (tele epidemiology) as this area is known is gaining increasing interest from various space agencies and research institutions. Below are links to some of the centres involved in this field.

National Aeronautic and Space Administration: Malaria, ArboNET/Plague surveillance system, Public Health Applications in Remote Sensing (PHAiRS), Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHTN/HELIX Atlanta), European Space Agency (ESA), French Space Agency(CNES), UNITED NATIONS.

These are just a few. There are programs going on in almost every other space agency (some links are in an earlier post). Our aim therefore would remain to increase awareness and strengthen commitment to further propagate these reasonable and efficient uses, that have without doubt proven to be potent tools in enhancing the science and practice of both epidemiology and disaster management.

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One Response to “Another look at Space and Health in Africa”

  1. Asangire said

    Well done Simon. We need more people that think in this dimension.
    Angel a.k.a Mama Africa

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