Disaster Medicine, Telemedicine and Integrated Vector Management

Disaster Medicine, Telemedicine and Integrated vector Management (IVM)

Second United Nations International UN-SPIDER Bonn Workshop: “Disaster Management and Space Technology - Bridging the Gap”; Bonn, Germany, 13–15 October 2008


Moderator:       David ROGERS (Health and Climate Foundation)
The fourth session of the Second United Nations International UN-SPIDER Bonn Workshop explored the contribution of space-based solutions in the field of Emergency / Disaster Medicine, Telemedicine and vector-borne diseases. New strategies for prevention and control of the latter are emphasizing "Integrated Vector Management" as an approach that reinforces the linkages between health and environment, optimizing benefits to both.
Especially in developing countries the vulnerability to climate and environmental changes is likely to increase as demands on resources continue to rise in association with rapidly growing populations. Additionally, there is a growing awareness of increasing risks to human health. Epidemics of weather- and climate sensitive infectious diseases, including malaria, meningitis, and cholera, cause massive disruption to societies and overburden national health systems.
In recognition of the need for improved understanding of current and likely future climate change one important objective is the further development and integration of in situ ground measurement systems, remote sensing monitoring techniques and appropriate Early warning system, as the increasing trend in epidemics and natural disasters coincides with advances in weather and climate prediction and improved understanding of the relationships between human health and the environment.
The plenary group discussed the following four topics:
a - Space supports for epidemic prevention
b - Epidemics warning and response based on space aid
c - Medical use of space technology in disaster
d - Bridge between medical field and space technology

Topic A: Space supports for epidemic prevention


  • Analyze the geographic information required to monitor the risks of epidemic outbreaks and create prediction models
  • Assess latest satellite communications tools for data transmission with field-level epidemic surveillance teams in remote areas
  • Explore ways in integrating space-based technologies with epidemic control systems to prevent the outbreak of diseases after natural disasters

 Recommendations and Perspectives
Epidemic outbreak is one of the most fatal catastrophes, especially in developing or least developed countries. Moreover, ecological and environmental changes caused by natural disasters can lead to epidemic outbreaks. For example, malaria outbreaks in the wake of flooding are a well-known phenomenon in malaria-endemic areas. Most of post-disaster infection is spawned by poor sanitation, a lack of safe drinking water and contaminated food. Nowadays, GIS technology is used to improve risk mapping and make prediction models of epidemic diseases such as SARS, Avian influenza, malaria, and ocean-borne cholera. Satellite technology also provides communication tools with regional epidemic surveillance teams to gather field information in remote high-risk areas. However, the approaches are still fragmented due to the complexity of the problem and the knowledge gap between medical experts and space experts. UN-SPIDER should provide a gateway for acquiring information on space-based technologies for epidemic risk analysis for health workers. The broad spectrum of needs is typically generated by the end users in the epidemic surveillance field. An integrated discussion with space experts and health workers will lead to answers to increase the potential of efficient epidemic prevention systems based on space-based technologies.

Topic B: Epidemics warning and response based on space aid


  • Explore new methods in utilizing earth observation systems for early warning and response to epidemic crises
  • Define the role of satellite communications technology for immediate warning and response to epidemic outbreaks such as SARS and pandemic flu
  • Clarify the mapping and communications tools needed to deal with secondary disease outbreaks after natural disasters
  • Define the highest-priority data categories and providers which should be accessed in the case of an outbreak

Recommendations and Perspectives
New epidemic threatssuch as SARS, pandemic flu and bioterrorism pose challenges for countries and communities globally. These epidemic diseases can spread faster and further, aided by high-speed travel, increased trading of goods between countries, and social and environmental changes. In today's globalized world, an outbreak or an emerging infectious agent anywhere on earth must now be considered a threat to all.  Therefore the immediate response and early warning in the risk area is key to limiting the spread of disease. GIS data from satellites can help workers clarify the contaminated region and separate it immediately. Early warning systems using satellite communication, GIS and GPS technology provide a fast and resilient way to distribute over geographical areas alarms and information to the population to facilitate adequate protective measures for the safeguard of citizens’ health in catastrophic events such as the tsunamis. No single institution or country has all the capacities to respond to international public health emergencies. In order to provide the most urgently required information for fast response, a focused discussion must be organized where different actors bring in different perspectives.

Topic C: Medical use of space technology in disaster


  • Explore practical ways in developing the potential of space-based communication technologies for medical treatment of disaster situation
  • Analyze the user needs in utilizing mapping and navigation systems to estimate critical medical resource availability in disaster situations
  • Explore solutions for overcoming drawbacks of using space technology for disaster medicine, such as satellite system costs, technical limitations and lack of knowledge

Recommendations and Perspectives
Health care is a critical part in all aspects of the disaster management cycle. Individual patients and medical resource assessments at a disaster situation can be coupled with GIS to support decision-making. When a disaster occurs, communications infrastructure on the ground can be destroyed. In this situation, satellite communications can be an answer to requirements of emergency healthcare services, and also support telemedicine equipment, telemanagement, teleconsulation, and telediagnosis. However, since actors in the medical field may be less familiar with space technology, there are still many
obstacles to overcome in utilizing space-based technologies in disaster medicine. To solve this problem, UN-SPIDER should provide gateway and guideline for the easy access to space-based information for disaster medicine. Before establishing the gateway system through UN-SPIDER, a discussion focused on analyzing the disaster medicine user needs is a necessary process.

Topic D: Bridge between medical field and space technology


  • Enhance knowledge sharing and collaboration between the space, disaster, and medical communities


  • Assess the UN-SPIDER platform as a practical communication system for the medical field


  • Increase the capacity of the medical field with regards to space-based technologies for disaster management to promote efficient cooperation

Recommendations and Perspectives
The collaboration between the space and medical fields can generate significant advances in disaster management. To realize this purpose, UN-SPIDER should provide a platform to bring together all related fields including medical experts, governments, NGOs, and private companies. This platform will offer easily accessible knowledge, useful information exchange, and practical communication. Through the active discussion between the respective experts, the way to realize the purpose can be clarified.

Graschew-Globalisation of Healthcare.pdf2.96 MB
ROGERS_SPIDER_Bonn_WS_2008.pdf5.43 MB
WEBER_DLR_SPIDER_Bonn_WS_2008.pdf8.46 MB