Developing Health Geographic Information Systems For Khorasan Province In Iran (Technical Report)

Developing Health Geographic Information Systems For Khorasan Province In Iran (Technical Report)


S.H. Sanaei-Nejad,
Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran,
E-mail: [email protected]

H.A.Faraji Sabokbar
Tehran University, Iran,
E-mail: [email protected]

GIS has been used for many years In Iran, in agricultural, economic, natural resources, urban planning and other sectors. Using GIS in these sectors also face different barriers, mainly because lack of accurate and sufficient data. However, using GIS for health management and research is still in the beginning stages. Health service in Iran is widely spread and complicated activity. Health management is also a centralized decision making procedure. Therefore allocation of spatially scattered health facilities to urban and rural area is a very difficult task

The local health management in Khorasan Province (North East of Iran) decided to use GIS as the main tools for processing the health data in spatial base. We proposed them to develop an enterprise Web based GIS for health service in Khorasan. A project has been designed to prepare spatial data, general platform, relational database and web based GIS software. The architecture of the system is based on Content Management System (CMS). In the CMS, three main branches are considered: Spatial data preparing, feature attribute data preparing, processing and management and spatially relating the feature attribute databases.

The project is completed and the system will be ready to be used in the near future. In this paper we have explained our plan and the stages that we have completed to establish the Health Geographic Information System for Khorasan province

A Geographic information system (GIS) is designed to work with spatially referenced data (Maxwell, 1976; EPA 1987). It means that we can work with both attribute and spatial databases and manipulate spatially referenced data. We can also use a set of operations to work with the attribute data in relation to the location where the data has been collected. The essential components of a GIS are as following:

  • Data acquisition,
  • Preprocessing,
  • Data management,
  • Data manipulation and analysis and
  • Product generation (Oranga, 1995).

Therefore GIS differs from Camputer Aid Design (CAD) and from statistical analysis system. Based on the above components, GIS can be used to investigate questions about location, condition, trends, routing and patterns of attributes.

The above characteristics of GIS make it essential for the health service and management. Because the health service facility, immunization, demographic, health personnel, hydrological system, and improved water supply facility databases have different geographically defined information. (Savigny, et. al., 1995).

In the health service and management in Iran health databases are used as feature attribute data without considering spatial dependency. In this project GIS was considered to use maps, which are prepared for health subjects and correlated to the different available databases.

There are three options that one may consider to use GIS for health management.

Desktop GIS by which, maps and attribute data are used by implementing of a properly software. This system can be used individually by a manager or by one person or by a group of staff by installation the GIS in their personal computer.

Workstation GIS, by which maps and t attribute data are stored in a server computer and users are able to use a software map and data processing by their PC Via a Local Network.

An enterprise GIS can be established o coordinate the system more efficiently by using Web based GIS. This sort of GIS uses World Wide Web as a platform to access the map and related attribute data. This is a new well-developed GIS tools and can be used as a powerful enterprise GIS.

System Architecture of the K-HGIS plan
Enterprise GIS was considered for health service and management in Khorasan province. The main structure of the K-HGIS a Content Management Systems (CMS) to construct network accessibility to the health databases and also to the maps and related attribute data.

The architecture of the system is based on Content Management System (CMS). Some benefits of web based CMS applications are as following:

  • Allows non-technical users to easily update the web
  • Ensuring that users not gain access to secure areas
  • Monitoring updates prior to publishing
  • Remaining up to date for the web content
  • Allowing users to customize viewing contents with their own favorite
  • Presenting the web in the local language
  • Ability to add your plugging to the system when needed, and the system will detect and enables them automatically

In the above CMS, there are three main branches that we worked on them:

  • Spatial data preparing
  • feature attribute data preparing
  • processing and management and spatially relating of the feature attribute databases.

The CMS details, which have used for K-HGIS, are shown in table 1.
Table 1. Details of the CMS designed for the K-HGIS:

Portal System Theme support
Customizable view
Multiple language support
Security Control System Session management
Log file management
Page access controls
User Management System User management
Group management
Page access controls
Database Management System Database connections
Database queries
XML convert
Document Management System Archive documents
Search documents
Report document
Report Management System Reporting with different views
Exporting reports to custom file types

However, Preparing thematic maps and related attribute data is the main problem in establishing enterprise GIS. This is more difficult task in developing countries (Sanaei-Nejad, 2002) and become more problematic when the enterprise GIS is for health service and management. Maps and spatial data sources, traditionally, are not used in this section. There are limited map sources available in other governmental organization that can be used as basically thematic maps for HGIS, in Khorasan province. Some other maps should have been prepared by fieldwork using GPS and also address matching procedure.

Figure 1. Selecting digitizing procedure

Figure 2. Digitizing procedure planned for preparing maps for K-HGIS

The base maps, which are used for this project, are topographic maps, administrative maps, Roads maps, rural, and urban points. These maps were collected and digitized appropriately. Selecting a digitizing procedure needed some considerations (Figure 1).

The most Convenience method that we could have planned based on the above consideration is shown in a flowchart (Figure 2).

The structure of traditional databases in the health service and management of Khorasan were analyzed. The analyses showed that the number of fields in the data bases are very high, which organized into different relational tables, but the architecture of the data bases are very simple. Figure 3 shows a sample of the database.

Figure 3. A sample of traditional databases in the health service and management of Khorasan

There are some rules that have to be considered in defining the fields and their attributes in the data bas. The traditional databases are static and update procedure is time consuming and also bureaucratically complicate. The new database

Designing the web map service
We used some open sources software and developed it according to the K-HGIS needs. The software appropriately meets the needs and is ready to install in the server. It is well developed to support native languages and also the related feature attribute data.

It has several tools to access the health service maps and also the related data. There are zoom in, zoom out, pan, layer management, multi layer map, scaling up and down, positioning and coordinate and search tools to make the software more useful for user. Some sample views of the software are presented in figure 4.


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