Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Methodology

Enabling methods for community health mapping in developing countries

Rashid Ansumana1, Anthony P Malanoski2*, Alfred S Bockarie1, Abu James Sundufu1, David H Jimmy1, Umaru Bangura1, Kathryn H Jacobsen3, Baochuan Lin2 and David A Stenger2

Author Affiliations

1 Njala University/Mercy Hospital Research Laboratory, Kulanda Town, Bo, Sierra Leone

2 Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC 20375 USA

3 Department of Global and Community Health, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia 22030 USA

For all author emails, please log on.

International Journal of Health Geographics 2010, 9:56  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-9-56

Published: 29 October 2010



Spatial epidemiology is useful but difficult to apply in developing countries due to the low availability of digitized maps and address systems, accurate population distributions, and computational tools. A community-based mapping approach was used to demonstrate that participatory geographic information system (PGIS) techniques can provide information helpful for health and community development.


The PGIS process allowed for the rapid determination of sectional (neighborhood) boundaries within the city of Bo, Sierra Leone. When combined with data about hospital laboratory visits, a catchment area for one hospital in Bo could be established. A survey of households from within the catchment area determined that the average population per household (about 6 individuals) was similar to that found in the 2004 census. However, we also found that the average house was inhabited by more than one household, for an average of 17.5 inhabitants per residential building, which is critical information to know when estimating population size using remote imagery that can detect and enumerate buildings.


The methods developed in this paper serve as a model for the involvement of communities in the generation of municipal maps and their application to community and health concerns.