August 16, 2004
Special ESRI Conference Report: Community Building for Health
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by GISCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Message from the Editor -


Welcome to GISWeekly! The
Opening Session at the ESRI Conference outlined the tremendous amount of work that GIS professionals do to develop products and to use them in many creative ways throughout the world. That first day of the conference is generally a marathon in terms of the amount of information disseminated, including Jack Dangermond's keynote address, coverage of all the product segments of the company, as well as a keynote this year by Dr. Rita Colwell who has spent a lifetime studying infectious diseases; followed by awards, and to top it off, an evening in the Map Gallery, where attendees
can see what is being done with GIS all around the world.


After listening to Dr. Colwell on Monday, one can see where spatial information could be invaluable in the tracking of disease and locations where disease seems to reside. It is not surprising then that progress is being made on development of a data model in which GIS can be leveraged to solve health issues. Read about the building of a Health Data Model in this week's Industry News.


GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, New Products, Going on Around the Web, and Upcoming Events.


GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at


Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor




Industry News


Attendees on their way to the Opening Plenary Session
In Newsweek's recent article
Making the Ultimate Map by Steven Levy, the mass market potential of GIS is profiled in a discussion of several emerging technologies. For those of us following the industry, geospatial are exciting but more importantly, part of a continuous development process to find ways of managing spatial data and displaying it in ways that make sense for the applications it serves.


The
Opening Session at the ESRI Conference outlined the tremendous amount of work that GIS professionals do to develop products and to use them in many creative ways throughout the world. This year approximately 13,000 people attended the conference, held in San Diego, California.


That first day of the conference is generally a marathon in terms of the amount of information disseminated, including Jack Dangermond's keynote address, coverage of all the product segments of the company, as well as a keynote this year by Dr. Rita Colwell who has spent a lifetime studying infectious diseases; followed by awards, and to top it off, an evening in the Map Gallery, where attendees can see what is being done with GIS all around the world.


For those strategists who need to look at the big picture, Northrop Grumman in partnership with Applied Minds, Inc., has developed a “touch table” designed largely for planners and analysts (it has a real military flavor) who at one time might have gathered around a large rolled out paper map. Now, the Touch Table is a projection tabletop that senses the location of points that are touched so that it can manipulate location of points in real time.
Day Two GISWeekly coverage focused on a plenary session on Spatial Data Infrastructure and product news.


Day Three is an overview of product trends and technologies seen at the conference.


After listening to Dr. Colwell on Monday, one can see where spatial information could be invaluable in the tracking of disease and locations where disease seems to reside. It is not surprising then that progress is being made on development of a data model in which GIS can be leveraged to solve health issues.




Community Building for Health


The pre-conference workshop, “Building a Health Data Model,” attracted a large number of interested parties who came to hear how several national health ministries were progressing with their health data projects. I spoke with Michael Goodchild, Ph.D. , University of California, Santa Barbara, about the pre-conference. According to Goodchild, the HL7 is a big effort by the health community to build a health data model. It is attempting to build a consistent representation of health activities including all the things that get reported such as visits to the doctor, diagnoses, outcome, etc. There are 500 countries involved in HL7.


Surprisingly, the HL7 effort is quite independent of ESRI. “It was quite something to get Mead Walker to come here because he's not a GIS person,” noted Goodchild. “There are absolutely no GIS people in that group. So this was a very effective way of starting a discussion and building a potential marriage.”


With a slightly higher accuracy rate than the MobileMapper, the CE mobile handheld device from Thales Navigation integrates submeter positioning with embedded Windows CE .NET and Bluetooth wireless technology.
The fact that there aren't any GIS people in the HL7 group is also of some concern, said Goodchild, as spatial is currently a very small part of that group's direction. “They have two concepts--one they call place and one they call address (street address,). Place is some location they serve, and that's as far as they go. They haven't talked about how exactly how to code place and how you convert it to an address.” Those factors are extremely important to someone from a geospatial perspective, yet not so to those from a strictly IT background. This is why Goodchild said that it's so important for these two worlds to meet and continue to talk and build networks.


“That's what this day is about-community building. We have several people here who came from different efforts that we hadn't heard about before,” Goodchild said, pointing out that, “you want to reach out to the rest of the world because you don't want to come up with a U.S.-only solution, but when you talk about health in the U.S. it does tend to be U.S.-centric. The U.S. health system is so different from everybody else's. For example, the whole concept of corporation wouldn't appear in a British discussion of health at all.” Assuring that the project remains an international effort is true of any standards effort, said Goodchild. “There is always a tension
between the local and the global that has to be dealt with.”


What will happen now with the health data model? Goodchild said another discussion will take place at an International Health User's Forum in Washington in October, and the involved parties will keep interest brewing with websites and emails. ESRI is very interested in making health an application development area. According to Goodchild, public health professionals are beginning to see the power of GIS. “There is very little GIS education in public health and public health schools - as an educator it's my job to get it in there.”


Map Gallery
About a year ago, Bill Davenhall, who heads up the health market for ESRI, got in touch with Goodchild and said he wanted to proceed with the process. Those who attended the workshop this week were from various agencies: Scott Christman from the California Office of Health Planning & Development (OSPHD), Andy Dent, GIS Coordinator from the CDC, and Seth Foldy, an MD with NACCHO. “There are public health practitioners out there who could really use this technology,” concluded Goodchild. He expects that federal and state agencies and also public health research institutions such as the
Harvard School of Public Health will be supportive of the technology, but they want to take adoption to the
next step and also get hospitals and doctor's offices educated to the importance of geospatial in their processes.


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