Mapping Health Care Access in Malawi: Update 3

After completing both my literature review to establish context for the poor health outcomes in Malawi and introductory training for ArcGIS (a geographic information system that uses spatial data to create maps for analysis), I just wrapped up the final stage of my research project: creating my own map that relates under 5 mortality rates in Malawi to the distances children travel to receive health care and summarizing my findings in a science journal-style paper. This last portion of my research had the largest learning curve due to the many challenges and setbacks I encountered. I also worked with my faculty advisor, Professor Dolan, to narrow the focus of my research project.

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Mapping Health Care Access in Malawi: Update 2

Following my literature review of the health care system in Malawi, I have now spent several days on my second phase of research: familiarizing myself with ArcGIS, a geographic information system that works with spatial data. Basically, ArcGIS uses data with latitudes and longitudes to create maps for visual analysis. My faculty advisor, Professor Carrie Dolan, provided me with an ArcGIS training program that she helped create while working with AidData. AidData is a research lab at William & Mary that works to present data in a clear, useful way in order to equip policymakers and international development organizations to make better-informed decisions. ArcGIS is a necessary tool within the world of AidData and public health data analysis. Learning how to navigate this software has given me a new appreciation for tools that communicate findings that are otherwise buried in statistics and spreadsheets. Below is the citation for the training program I completed.

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Mapping Health Care Access in Malawi: Update 1

In my attempt to study the state of health care in Malawi – a small country in southeastern Africa – I have divided my research into three parts: reviewing literature to gain context, completing training for the software system ArcGIS, and compiling maps generated with ArcGIS alongside my literature findings to write a paper summarizing my findings. With this first update, I will draw together some themes I discovered while reading current research reports and learning about the culture and health policy in Malawi. I dug into Google Scholar as well as databases available through William & Mary to find these scholarly articles focused on equity, under five mortality, maternal mortality, access to care, and more in sub-Saharan Africa and, more specifically, Malawi. In order to gain a historical perspective informed by long-term work in Malawian communities, I also read reports and web articles from non-governmental organizations working in Malawi. These NGOs helped give me a realistic view of both the organization of Malawi’s health care system and the struggles preventing effective public health service provision.

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Mapping Health Care Access in Malawi

I will be studying the relationship between access to health care facilities and the high observed maternal mortality rates in Malawi by using geographic information tools. I will create a map that represents each maternal mortality data point as well as the location of health facilities in order to analyze if location has an impact, if more health facilities are needed and if so, where they could be built. The data for this research will come from the 2015 Demographic Health Survey in Malawi. Using ArcGIS, I will compute the distance from each maternal mortality data point to the nearest health care facility. I will then use STATA to calculate regressions and display any correlation between maternal mortality and health facility location.