Home Health One can’t ignore risk of ‘place’ in medicine: Esri

One can’t ignore risk of ‘place’ in medicine: Esri

Melbourne, Australia: The history of where you have lived and worked is as vital in healthcare diagnoses as your genetics and lifestyle, according to a leading American geomedicine specialist. Speaking at the Healthcare Information and Management System Society AsiaPac11 conference in Melbourne, Esri Global Hospital and Health Specialist Ann Bossard warned of the risks of ignoring ‘place’ in medicine.
“Medical practitioners have traditionally relied heavily on patient information gathered through direct observation and diagnostic testing, parental health histories, and prior treatments,” Bossard said. “However, this information has limited use unless it is combined with an understanding of the environmental hazards a patient has been exposed to throughout their lives. “For example, we know that living or working within certain proximity of highways can significantly increase the risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.”
Bossard cited a World Health Organisation study which reported that up to 30 per cent of morbidity and mortality was a direct result of living or working in and around unhealthy physical and social environments. “This has been identified as a serious global issue which needs to be addressed,” Bossard said.
“Adding a geographical context, using cutting-edge GIS technology, will not only accelerate diagnosis but increase the likelihood that physicians will make treatment recommendations that patients can comply successfully. Ultimately, a rich and accurate history of where a patient has lived and worked is integral to responsible healthcare.”
The field of geomedicine, which examines the link between environmental factors and the geographical distribution of health issues, is not new. In the US, an online mapping website, developed using Esri GIS technology, enabled users to search residential and work locations and find which health issues are related to those areas, as well as possible causes.
Esri Australia’s Health Specialist Jeremy Pytel said Australia’s healthcare system is well behind the US when it comes to leveraging GIS technology. “According to ABS statistics 68 percent of Australians live in cities – where there is compromised air quality and exposure to pollutants,” said Pytel. 
Source: Esri Australia