Training Reports for TWF Investigators

Chang photo

Jaime Chang N., M.D. M.Sc. CHDC


Instituto Nacional de Salud
Ministerio de Salud

Project and Training Dates

Falciparum malaria in the Department of Loreto, Peru
June - July 1997

Objectives of Visit, as Initially Proposed

  1. To acquire basic knowledge and skills on remote sensing (RS) and geographic information systems (GIS), as applicable in public health and epidemiology.
  2. To apply the knowledge and skills being acquired to describe and analyze data related to a falciparum malaria-endemic area in Peru (Department of Loreto).

Accomplishments during Visit

The work was mainly focused on acquiring knowledge and skills in the interpretation of RS images, using the images and data sets described above after learning the basics of the ERDAS-Imagine and ArcInfo computer programs. It should be made clear that learning how to use the programs was not an objective in itself. Rather, the emphasis was put on the interpretation of the images.

Following initial training on a California dataset, work was continued with two Landsat-TM images (1987 and 1996) acquired over the Department of Loreto, focusing on the agricultural area along the Nanay River, near the City of Iquitos, where falciparum malaria has become a health problem in the last two years. Maps of the Loreto Department and basic epidemiological data on falciparum malaria in the Department were also used. It was planned to analyze the information contained in the images along with updated epidemiological data.

Future activities

Dr. Chang expects it will be possible to work with the Director of Epidemiology of the Direccion Regional de Salud de Loreto, to make use the of the data now available in the study and control of falciparum malaria.

With the support of other organizations currently working with RS and GIS in other fields, the basic knowledge and skills acquired will be transferred to post-graduate students in epidemiology and public health both at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos and the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. The objective of this is to contribute to building a critical mass of health workers acquainted with RS who can determine the most appropriate way to apply these tools in research and service activities, as well as to transfer the knowledge and skills acquired to other health workers.

Two new projects have been proposed to be undertaken on a collaborative basis with CHAART as a result of this training:

  1. Given that the majority of public health and epidemiology students lack sufficient basic knowledge to understand RS and GIS in order to realize their possible applications in their fields of interest, we plan to produce a training handbook on the basics of geography and spatial data, RS, and GIS for epidemiology and public health. The target population is epidemiology and public health students (advanced under-graduate and graduate levels) and workers. The handbook is to be used in short courses or workshops, and then as a self-teaching aid. The objective is to train students to think spatially and work with spatial data as one of the basic variables in epidemioloy and public health, as well as to understand the basic principles behind the application of RS and GIS in these fields.
  2. Given that a strong El Niņo Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon is taking place this year [1997-1998], it may be possible to study its ecological effects at a small scale (e.g., a Peruvian province or department) and its relationship to changes in the epidemiological profile of the area. This will be undertaken through the use of RS and the analysis of epidemiological historical data, as well as data to be gathered while ENSO's more intense effects take place (i.e., from November 1997 trough May 1998). It is our intention to establish this project within the Ministry of Health services, such as the General Epidemiology Office at the central level and Direcciones Regionales de Salud of Regions in the Northern coast and the Southeastern Andes of Peru.

Last updated: February 2002