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Beyond mapping: a case for geospatial analytics in humanitarian health

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Analysis
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Greenough and Nelson, Conflict and Health (2019) 13:50

https://doi.org/10.1186/s13031-019-0234-9

Abstract

The humanitarian sector is increasingly adopting geospatial data to support operations. However, the utilization of these data in the humanitarian health arena is predominantly in thematic map format, thereby limiting the full insight and utility of geospatial information.
Geospatial analytics, in contrast, including pattern analysis, interpolation, and predictive modeling, have tremendous potential within the field of humanitarian health. This paper explores a variety of historical and contemporary geospatial applications in the public health and humanitarian fields and argues for greater integration of geospatial analysis into humanitarian health research and programming. From remote sensing to create sampling frames, to spatial interpolation for environmental exposure analysis, and multi-objective optimization algorithms for humanitarian logistics, spatial analysis has transformed epistemological paradigms, research methods and programming landscapes across diverse disciplines.
The field of humanitarian health, which is inextricably bounded by geography and resource limitations, should leverage the unique capacities of spatial methods and strategically integrate geospatial analytics into research and programming not only to fortify the academic legitimacy and professionalization of the field but also to improve operational efficiency and mitigation strategies.

Keywords: Humanitarian health, Geospatial analysis, Spatial analysis, Geographic information systems, GIS