Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Starting Year: 2004
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been using geographic information system (GIS) technology at one level or another for more than 15 years. This is most visibly manifested in the HealthMapper and Global Atlas programs developed and administered by the Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response (CSR) group within the Communicable Diseases (CDS) cluster. The HealthMapper application has been distributed to thousands of users worldwide and has been instrumental in introducing de facto epidemiological and related data standards and geospatial awareness to a wide audience. The Global Atlas has introduced new ways of using the Internet to provide information back to the world. In addition to efforts within WHO, there is a broad and ever growing number of United Nations partners and other public health stakeholders throughout the world that are actively involved in both individual and collaborative efforts to apply GIS to national, regional, and international public health issues. These communities are working toward the development of standards and protocols for the development and dissemination of common data models, applications, and information sharing networks. Although WHO is well positioned to play a leading role in facilitating and coordinating these global efforts toward a common benefit, the organization has not yet pursued this in a strategic way.
ESRI and the Geographic Planning Collaborative, Inc. conducted a project to support WHO in conducting a rapid overview requirements analysis and developing of a near-term implementation strategy for the effective strengthening of GIS technology as a fundamental component of the organization's information infrastructure. This effort borrows extensively from current and previous efforts of the health mapping programs within CSR (HealthMapper and Global Atlas), other GIS-related activities at WHO, and developments in the international public health sector and other related initiatives such as the growing national and regional spatial data infrastructure. Recommendations were intended to provide input to immediate concerns regarding the modernization and streamlining of the CSR program, the establishment and operation of the new Situation Room, and the near- and long-term issues that will need to be addressed as WHO moves forward.