A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…and What About a Map?

“Is that my house? No, that’s it right there” says promotora (community health worker) Teresa. We are looking at a map prototype of her community. “You should make the background a little greener so it’s easier to use the trees as landmarks,” says promotora Santusa. Community Coordinator Escolástica and I are up in Huilloc training the promotoras to read maps and use them to navigate their communities. We are preparing for the next step in SVH’s mapping project. In June, the promotoras will help us collect community health data to augment the household survey data that we began to collect when we launched our mapping effort in partnership with Broad Street Maps.  In this next stage of our mapping program, we will be able to map health trends and evaluate program coverage in our communities.

Promotoras Santusa and Teresa complete a map training exercise
Promotoras Santusa and Teresa complete a map training exercise

To do this mapping we are using a technology called Global Information Systems (GIS). Last year Broad Street Maps worked with us to help map the communities in which we work using handheld GPS devices and a GIS computer program. We have since expanded into and begun mapping new communities.

Community Coordinator Escolástica maps a path in T’astayoc using a handheld GPS device
Community Coordinator Escolástica maps a path in T’astayoc using a handheld GPS device

GIS technologies have transformed monitoring and evaluation processes in global health. GIS has the potential to show how health coverage is impacted by decentralized health care, identify disease hotspots, assess health equity, and evaluate services across space through cost-distance analysis. Other global health NGOs have used GIS technologies to integrate government data with data collected in the field in order to better understand rural health trends. Partners In Health, for example, has used GIS to calculate hospital service areas and find the best location for new health facilities.

Our main objectives for this project are to empower our promotoras, enhance our monitoring and evaluation capacity, and convey information to stakeholders and policymakers. By mapping health trends, we will be able to better understand our coverage, see the impact of our programs, assess health equity, and focus our efforts accordingly. These maps will enable location specific spatial analysis of associations between health status, outcomes, and behaviors. They will also help us to communicate effectively with district and regional level decision makers about the health challenges these communities face. We anticipate that the maps will be useful for future collaboration with government health clinics, community evaluation, and network analysis between communities.

Using maps to navigate is a new concept for the promotoras. None had used a map before or seen a map of her community. When we asked promotor Anastacio how he gives directions in T’astayoc, he told us he that he uses to finger to point the way and tells people to ask others along the way. Santusa and Teresa explained that everyone knows each other in the different sectors of Huilloc, so they tell people to ask around once they get to the right neighborhood. The goal of our trainings this month is to teach the promotoras to read and interpret maps. At the beginning of each training we discuss different types and uses of maps and go over important elements such as the compass, legend, and scale bar. The promotoras then draw maps of their houses and communities and practice using the GIS maps we have made to navigate their community.

Promotor Anastacio and Community Coordinators Escolástica and Lydia work on map training activities in T’astayoc
Promotor Anastacio and Community Coordinators Escolástica and Lydia work on map training activities in T’astayoc

Maps can simultaneously show social, geographic, and economic data. Our mapping program is designed to facilitate the collection of  accurate, current data on the changing health needs of the communities in which we work. We expect that incorporating maps into our normal programming will support the identification and efficient delivery of much-needed services, and are excited about this next chapter in SVH/ Ayni Wasi’s growth.

Written by Lydia Jessup 

 

 

 

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