“The medical atlas will help medical professionals to identify risks and conditions in their areas of responsibility and keep soldiers fit to fight.”
The CSIR is using geographic information systems (GIS) to create medical atlas software for the South African Military Health Services (SAMHS).
Unlike their civilian counterparts, military healthcare providers must be ready to deploy people and services at a moment’s notice, whether into conflict situations or to provide humanitarian or peacekeeping assistance.
With the Geospatial Atlas of Disease Intelligence and Countermeasures, regional information ranging from weather conditions to medical facilities is easily accessed by military medics, troops and intelligence personnel. The GIS data provide medics with environmental health, disease and climate information when planning deployment. This helps decisions about what clothing and medical equipment is needed.
Troops and medics can prepare optimally with information about topography, population, water supply, living and sanitary conditions, prevalent diseases and medical facilities, pollution and threats from animals and plants in areas of deployment. For instance, anticipating deployment in an area known for poisonous snakes, but no poison centres, means including anti-venom kits to the supplies.
The atlas can also be used in emergency situations, such as overlaying maps with topographical data, clear-cut areas, transmission lines and soil type to determine the most suitable landing zone for a helicopter in an evacuation or rescue situation.
Although developed for military use, the atlas is useful to all medical professionals and civilians who do field work in Africa. The atlas continues to grow as more data is collected to build country profiles. The goal is to create a unique source of information for a vast range of user-specific queries.