Geospatial applications in the health sciences are on the rise. A Madison firm that combines asthma treatment, GPS, Web maps, and spatial analysis recently made headlines in The Economist. This firm, Asthmapolis, was founded by Dr. David Van Sickle, formerly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One of Asthmapolis’ current projects is research into patterns of air pollution exposure and asthma symptoms. The company’s GPS-enabled inhaler (called “Spiroscout”) allows users to accurately record the time and location when the inhaler is used. The device then stores that information or sends it to a remote server via a wireless link. This device is scheduled to be on the market this fall.
A “mobile diary” application that runs on a smart phone can be used to track and map inhaler use. Maps, charts and tables summarize patterns of use over space and time, helping users identify locations that cause asthma symptoms. By aggregating reports over time, Asthmapolis hopes to provide information to scientists, epidemiologists and public health researchers to improve understanding of disease triggers and progression.
A recent article in gigaom offers additional insights into the rise of mobile health applications, or “mHealth”. It should be no surprise that Madison is a center for this new technology, given the strong presence of health sciences research at UW-Madison and allied private companies.
Those interested in more information about geospatial applications in the health sciences at UW-Madison might consider attending the upcoming Geospatial Summit on April 28, 2011. There will be presentations from the School of Nursing, Applied Population Lab, and the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) on health science applications. Nationally, URISA (the Urban and Regional Information Association) has announced its third annual GIS in Public Health Conference on June 27-30, 2011, in Atlanta, Georgia.