Towards Web-based Representation And Processing Of Health Information

Sheng Gao; Darka Mioc; Xiaolun Yi; Francois Anton; Eddie Oldfield; David J Coleman


Int J Health Geogr 

In This Article


A case study has been carried on the development of web application and services within the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) framework for community health programs of the New Brunswick Lung Association. The Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) aims to support online access to location-based information which can efficiently help people in their decision making.[22] One priority area of CGDI is to share location-based information for analyzing and monitoring public health. Sharing of health information in the CGDI will improve our ability to intervene on health issues, and inform the public of the availability of resources.

The health data we used in this study include four kinds of respiratory disease data (Asthma, COPD, Influenza, and Cancer) collected by the New Brunswick Lung Association. The disease data are geo-coded to spatial position through the postcode. The spatial data we used include the six levels of spatial boundary data that cover the entire territory of New Brunswick. The six levels are "Province," "Health Region," "Census Division," "Census Subdivision, " "Forward Sortation Area," and "Dissemination Area" geo-layers. All the health data and geometrical boundary data are stored in Oracle database. Low counts (i.e., less than five observations) or false counts are not represented to further ensure privacy and accuracy. WMS services are used to publish the health facility distribution maps. WFS services distribute the different levels of spatial boundary data. In this study, we provide access to new Web Processing Services in the CGDI to enable statistical representation of health information. The WPS services support the statistical calculation as well as mapping of the health data. Figure 6 shows an example of an HERXML document generated by a WPS, and Figure 7 presents a map representation generated from a WPS.

Figure 6.

An HERXML document generated from a WPS. This HERXML document represents a processing result from a WPS.

Figure 7.

A map generated from a WPS. This map represents a processing result in image format from a WPS.

A configuration wizard (See Figure 8) was developed to allow health managers to configure WMS/WPS services for the end users. The number of WMS layers and the parameters of the WPS layer can be set. A sequence diagram of the health information access is shown in Figure 9. After the export process, the generated HTML viewer allows easy and quick access to WMS/WPS services for visualization purposes. As shown in Figure 10, a CMR distribution map from WPS and some facility distribution maps from WMS are integrated. A clinic layer (NB_outpatients) is added as a default layer for locating the clinic locations. It provides users (researchers, health officials, practitioners, policy makers, and epidemiologists) with access to GIS functionality for visualizing health data, and evidence-based decision making on disease outbreaks. The HTML viewer can be saved and used anywhere through the Web, as the JavaScript functions (Zoom in, Pan, etc), WMS services, WPS services are accessed online.

Figure 8.

The configuration wizard interface. The configuration wizard manages the WMS layers and the parameters for the WPS.

Figure 9.

Service level sequential diagram for health information access. The Web client invokes the WMS and WPS for health information access. WMS and WPS obtain the raw data from WFS, DBMS, or files, and then perform the mapping and processing operations.

Figure 10.

The exported HTML viewer. This viewer provides quick access to WMS/WPS services for visualization purposes.