GEOINT and Epidemiology

Geospatial data has powerful implications for fighting the spread of infectious disease


The link between epidemiology and geospatial intelligence is natural. Understanding how disease travels through an environment is often a complicated task, made much easier by geospatial technology and data. This link was never more apparent than during the recent Ebola outbreak, when satellite imagery and open-source geospatial information helped bolster relief efforts and stop the spread of disease in West Africa.

Wednesday from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in Room 146 at GEOINT 2015, Melissa Hersh of the Truman National Security Project will moderate a breakout discussion on “The Role of Geospatial Intelligence in Health Crisis Analysis and Mission.” Rear Adm. Scott F. Giberson, Assistant Surgeon General, commander of the Commissioned Corps Ebola Response in West Africa, and director of the Division of Commissioned Corps Personnel and Readiness with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will deliver an introductory keynote.

Panelists will include Justin Poole, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Xperience Directorate; Capt. Michael Schmoyer, deputy director of intelligence with the Office of Security and Strategic Information, HHS; Rob Shankman, GIS program manager with HHS; and Karen Walsh of Blue Glass Development.

In West Africa, putting better maps and data into the hands of local officials and aid workers led to better decisions on the ground. Some of the many ways geospatial tools were used to fight Ebola included: determining the best placement for Ebola treatment units and community care centers; monitoring and sharing the locations of NGOs in the region; and plotting transportation routes for aid workers and supplies.

Epidemics extend beyond the disease and devastation they cause to affect other areas such as national security and economics. Epidemics strain not only the health system, but also a population’s workforce and political stability. For example, the Ebola outbreak significantly affected the tourism industry in West Africa. For regions that already have complicated political situations, dealing with an epidemic could lead to increased instability or civil unrest.

Panelists will discuss how the connection between epidemiology and geospatial intelligence has implications for a wide range of issues including health, politics, the economy, culture, technology, and data. The panel will examine both lessons learned from previous events as well as how to move forward to apply GEOINT to future epidemics and similar situations.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Army


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