CartONG is providing constant support to its partners operating in the field to make better, more informed decision-making thanks to geospatial information. In particular, in the race against time that characterize infectious diseases crises, the use of spatial visualization to comprehend the dynamics of an outbreak has proven to be a powerful tool.
Developing an adaptable tool to support medical field operations
Tools developed to this end must simultaneously comply with two basic, yet challenging necessities. They first must remain simple and evolutive enough to be quickly adapted to any new context. Secondly, they must be able to maintain performance in areas prone to communication cuts, including total cut-off from the Internet. Keeping these needs in mind, and in the context of the dramatic cholera crisis happening in Yemen in 2017, CartONG proceeded to develop the epiMap for its partner, the GIS Unit of MSF (Doctors Without Borders Switzerland).
The EpiMap is a ﬂexible, portable mapping tool able to adapt to a variety of diﬀerent contexts. It features a dynamic visualization of epidemiological data over time on any area (provided necessary spatial data is available), data filters, graph statistical visualizations, as well as customizable classification and legend parameters.
Using the EpiMap in the field
Since 2017, the EpiMap has been used during various outbreaks, including the early 2018 Ebola burst in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Equator province), and very recently, to monitor the ongoing cholera outbreak in Harare, Zimbabwe.
In Yemen in 2017, the initial version of the map was used to strengthen the overview of the outbreak and better plan response activities at national level. During the 2018 Ebola response in the Bikoro region (DRC), field teams used the tool to improve their understanding of the chronological transmission of the virus in remote areas of the Equator province. The flexible design of the tool allowed it to be quickly adapted to its context, displaying cases at a village level rather than at a regional level, and proved the potential of its full offline capacity during operations in remote areas.
Currently, the EpiMap is being used by field teams in Harare, Zimbabwe, for daily follow-up of cases through the city and identification of hotspots where immediate intervention is needed. Several other countries are also currently experimenting on the EpiMap as part of their emergency preparedness. GIS & epidemiologist teams are collaborating to adapt its functionalities to their own context to have it ready when the time comes.
Experimenting with a progressive development approach
CartONG has also been experimenting the added value of Agile development while setting up and improving the EpiMap. The tool has been conceived through an iterative development adapted to user requirements. It is also slowly perfected with each new iteration, its modular approach allowing to reintegrate additional functions requested by each new deployment.
Last but not least, the EpiMap, its original code and practice datasets are made available to all on GitHub for educational purposes.
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Feel free to contact us to express your interest in this tool, and to experiment it for yourself!