Web-based public health geographic information systems for resources-constrained environment using scalable vector graphics technology: a proof of concept applied to the expanded program on immunization data.
BACKGROUND: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are powerful communication tools for public health. However- using GIS requires considerable skill and- for this reason- is sometimes limited to experts. Web-based GIS has emerged as a solution to allow a wider audience to have access to geospatial information. Unfortunately the cost of implementing proprietary solutions may be a limiting factor in the adoption of a public health GIS in a resource-constrained environment. Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is used to define vector-based graphics for the internet using XML (eXtensible Markup Language)/ it is an open- platform-independent standard maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) since 2003. In this paper- we summarize our methodology and demonstrate the potential of this free and open standard to contribute to the dissemination of Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) information by providing interactive maps to a wider audience through the Internet. RESULTS: We used SVG to develop a database driven web-based GIS applied to EPI data from three countries of WHO AFRO (World Health Organization - African Region). The system generates interactive district-level country immunization coverage maps and graphs. The approach we describe can be expanded to cover other public health GIS demanding activities- including the design of disease atlases in a resources-constrained environment. CONCLUSION: Our system contributes to accumulating evidence demonstrating the potential of SVG technology to develop web-based public health GIS in resources-constrained settings.