Pan American Health Organization InstantAtlas_FreeTrial

How the Pan American Health Organization is using data presentation to aid the policy-making process


The Pan American Health Organization is an international public health agency with more than 100 years of experience in working to improve health and living standards of the countries of the Americas. It serves as the specialized organization for health of the Inter-American System. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization and enjoys international recognition as part of the United Nations system.

Patricia Nájera-Aguilar is the Geographic Information Systems Consultant in the International Health Regulation - Alert & Response, and Epidemic Diseases Team in PAHO’s Health Surveillance and Disease Prevention and Control Area.

Getting started

Patricia says that Health Surveillance and Disease Prevention and Control needed a mapping system that would allow them to work quickly to position the geographic distribution of illnesses and record the evolution of certain epidemics as they spread. A good example is the interactive atlas of Cholera Epidemics.

“In public health and epidemiology it is essential to include the time-space dimensions for a more complete assessment,” says Patricia. “This is so that we can identify geographic dispersion-concentration patterns of health problems, alignments, vicinities, as well as the spatial correlation with other geographic factors.”

They also wanted to be able to carry out analysis of basic health indicators across all countries of the Americas. InstantAtlas has allowed them to map the distribution of illness, the evolution of epidemics and basic health indicators.

Patricia says she has found InstantAtlas easy to use. “Initially I learned watching the InstantAtlas YouTube Channel, following the examples on the templates and using the Geowise support,” she says.

Meeting the need

A wide range of users are accessing the resource including: PAHO/WHO specialists; PAHO professionals in the Americas countries; health workers; press and the general public. The most recent data they can now access includes: Atlas of Cholera Cases and Cholera Treatment Facilities, 2010-2011, the interactive Atlas of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009-2010 mortality, and the Atlas of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009-2010 Qualitative Indicators; Nicaragua’s Health Situation Room 2000-2010.

PAHO is now able to deliver a variety of interactive atlas and dashboards offering public health data to aid in the policy-making process. On the PAHO’s Data and Statistics web page there is a series of dynamic, interrelated, interactive atlas and dashboards providing tables, maps, and charts showing data in various dimensions. They are intended as a complementary alternative to the information most commonly used in the form of statistical tables, maps, and charts. In addition to the usual types of data, the system also offers special data atlas and dashboards for dengue, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB.

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Future developments

Much of the effort is directed at keeping the cholera reports up-to-date but Patricia and the team are hoping to develop parallel projects to look at all the datasets from a more analytical perspective. This could include using the bubble plot or correlation-double maps features in InstantAtlas.

Key Benefits

  • Ease of use
  • Ability to present large amounts of data
  • Fast construction of reports
  • Good quality data visualization of reports

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