GIS Expands the Reach of Health Care in Indonesia

Where does health care end and “regular” life begin? Finding a sharp divide between the two is impossible. GIS technology will help Indonesia bridge the gap and address a fundamental problem that affects the health of its citizens: food security.

GIS applied at the level of a farm can help improve food production.

Someone’s health is generally as dependent on lifestyle, diet, activity, and environment as on genetics and exposure to infection or disease. Public health researchers and officials realize this and put significant attention on the intersections of medical practice and life. In many emerging parts of the world, a significant problem is poverty and accompanying food insecurity. Poor nutrition and outright lack of food makes caring for health extremely difficult. The ordinary physical resources a person might have are badly compromised.

Indonesia has a significant problem with food insecurity because of a number of factors, including global climate change and shrinking agricultural land with a population of 240 million. Addressing the problem means understanding both how to better produce food and where to focus aid.

Indonesia’s Geospatial Information Agency has put GIS to work to help the issue, according to a report on the website FutureGov.

The result of this activity are thematic maps that allows users to analyse spatial relationships between select variables thereby enabling farmers to enhance their crop yield.

To break this down a bit more, it helps to realize that farming is a far more of a subtle undertaking than it might seem. Different locations on the same farm might differ in soil composition, need for nutrients, or even moisture content. Treat all the areas in the same way and you will likely reduce the total amount of food you could have otherwise grown. GIS applied at the level of a farm can help improve food production.

Similarly, GIS can examine on a regional or national basis the distribution and use of farmland for a large area, including a systemic view of water resources and ability to aggregate individual farm activities for a better understanding of trends and national agricultural strengths and weaknesses. The combination of perspectives offers a breadth and depth of analysis that would not have been practical even a few years ago.

To address food security, a society would need to understand consumption and not just production. Geographic distributions of wealth, food prices, demographics, supply chain dynamics, and distribution points would help officials analyze food accessibility and the impact of government policies and programs.

Will GIS technology solve Indonesia’s food security problem? No. But it will be an important tool for those who seek to do so. It shows another way that a GIS degree can help people make a difference.

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