Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2013 Contents Imagine you are a
provider of aged services.
You are doing your
research, looking ahead
and trying to anticipate
the nature and scale of care
services you will need to be
ready to provide in the coming
five-to-ten years and beyond to
the next couple of decades.
You go to a website
enabled by Google Earth and
you hone in on the areas on
the map that you currently
service. The map can tell
you, according to Australian
Bureau of Statistics and
Australian Institute of Health
and Welfare data, how many people in
that geographical area fall into different
age groups, as well as how many are
likely to have a diagnosis of dementia or
other diseases in the coming year or two.
Sophisticated built-in data modelling can
also give you projected figures by specific
geographic areas, for years to come.
Sure enough, your organisation and
its locations are also identified on the
map, together with links to your range of
services. At the same time, you can see
the other service providers operating in
your area and what services they have to
offer. You might also see what advocacy
and support groups are available in
the region; even whether there are any
vacancies. There might be an active online
discussion group involving a range of
service providers, individuals, government
representatives and advocacy groups,
considering the value of changing or adding
to a program or seeking input to research.
All of this information and more,
available through modern geospatial
technology, has considerable potential to
transform the way that service provision
is understood, planned and provided; and
it is getting close to becoming available.
DEVELOPING THE CONCEPT
A researcher and PhD candidate from the
Australian Institute of Health Innovation
at the University of New South Wales has
developed a clever 'geospatial' tool, very
similar to this idea, designed to provide a
better understanding of the relationship
between the geographical prevalence of
different diseases and health conditions
and the availability of services to treat and
manage those conditions.
A geographer by background,
Hamish Robertson has worked in ageing
research for the past decade. Drawing
on his interest in spatial science and
understanding ageing related disease, he
has developed an interactive web-based
technology that links population ageing,
and in particular (for his research project),
the prevalence of dementia, with popular
mapping technology like Google Earth.
The idea is to provide user-friendly, multi-
layered maps - by state, region, city, suburb,
neighbourhood or local government area
- that can illustrate not only the current and
predicted prevalence of dementia and other
ageing related diseases, but the number and
type of services currently available in each
area to meet the needs of those diseases --
and where there may be gaps.
To achieve this, the technology also
enables interested service
professionals, as well as
consumers, to post information
that can be shared, considered
Robertson says population
ageing; the epidemiology of
ageing; and health and social
support systems responses, all
involve spatial relationships.
"A spatial perspective
has the potential to support
better, more accurate and
effective responses to ageing
-- conceptual, technical,
communicative and visual technologies.
"A geographical perspective links and
integrates social, structural, economic and
environmental elements in a meaningful
and practical way."
He says location and health have been
linked since the beginnings of human
understanding and modern spatial science
is developing at a rapid rate; yet health
sciences, social services and advocacy groups
still make very limited use of these sciences.
As part of his research project,
Robertson has so far been mapping
and indexing services such as Meals on
Wheels, emergency services, hospitals,
ACATs, ambulance stations, pharmacies,
GPs and other health services.
"We see it as the democratisation of
data," he says.
"Location matters. Geography is
integral to a measured societal response
-- where will the impacts be greatest and
on whom? What resources exist? Where
are the gaps? Who is available? Where are
they or where will they come from?
"This is a connecting technology,"
says Robertson. "It enables government,
service providers, researchers, NGOs and
individuals to link up across the different
health service boxes and break down
Hamish Robertson [h.robertson@neura.
edu.au ] is a presenter at the Aged Care
Informatics conference (17 July 2013), part of
HISA 2013, in Adelaide from 15-18 July.
We can map that!
Understanding the future demand for different kinds of health
and aged services in your area and identifying the gaps will
soon become a matter of consulting the map. Keryn Curtis
introduces the geography of ageing.
Working example demonstrating prevalence of Alzheimer's disease in NSW.
"We see it as the
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