As a nation we are geographically and socially diverse meaning that where we live and how we move about has a huge impact on our health and well-being.
To make better policies for the people of Wales we need to understand more about how, and why our geography affects us and this has never been more so than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Richard Fry, a Senior Lecturer in Geography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at Swansea University Medical School, explains the role of GIS in the One Wales response to COVID-19.
“Geography is at the very heart of the anonymised linkage and analyses being conducted securely in the SAIL Databank, whether as a data linkage mechanism or a statistical analysis unit.
SAIL has unique systems in place where we are able to analyse how people move about in Wales and how built and natural environments, along with social characteristics, affect our health. During the COVID-19 pandemics, these significant privacy-protecting measures, combined with the acquisition of new data means that we have been able to group people together for statistical analyses at a household level without ever knowing who they are or where they live to study the impact of the disease.
This has enabled the One Wales team of analysts, data scientists and policy colleagues to understand how acute and chronic health conditions affect people other than those who are suffering from the illness or for instance how housing quality can impact on multiple generations of a family. This principle can also be applied to other types of residential setting such as Care Homes, where we can anonymously group individuals together to understand the impacts of communal living or global public health events such as COVID-19.
These linkage mechanisms and subsequent insights are a vital component to understand COVID-19 in Wales and the One Wales response.
Further to this, we have been able to demonstrate the power of geography and maps in informing the COVID-19 response. As part of a team across the HDR UK network, we have leveraged SeRP to host secure linked and unlinked versions of the data from the COVID-19 ZOE App which has enabled us to produce models of predicted hotspots at a localised level.
The mapped results have fed directly into Welsh and Scottish Government via HDRUK Wales and Northern Ireland and BREATHE informing policymakers on predictions of community prevalence from April onwards.”
For further information on how GIS and data analysis is helping answer questions in Wales including COVID-19 response work and examples of GIS work visit:
To see the list of currently available data sources and their cadence, along with the latest SAGE reports please see the HDR UK website which is updated on a weekly basis: https://www.hdruk.ac.uk/covid-19/
BY CATHRINE RICHARDS, SWANSEA UNIVERSITY
Read the Geospatial Commission Blog https://geospatialcommission.blog.gov.uk/2020/08/13/datgloi-pwer-lleoliad-strategaeth-geo-ofodol-a-geospatial-perspective-from-wales/