KFL&A Public Health monitors public health and guides the local development of public health programs. They also assist with timely responses to public health events. With the increased use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in public health, KFL&A saw this as an opportunity to create the Public Health Information Management System (PHIMS).
This system helps to advance their mandate and enhance real-time situational awareness. To do so, the system compiles data on the environment and emergency preparedness. One source of data is Environment and Climate Change Canada. The system uses web-based mapping applications to visualize the information.
PHIMS users can choose from several maps to visualize with different geographic features. Users can also choose different characteristics to display and create a colourful visualization. These options enable users to view where the most vulnerable populations live. This will help prepare and prioritize resources in the event of a public health emergency.
PHIMS helps users understand the social and environmental context of a problem, event, or idea. It also adds value to the data gathered, as it provides many layers all in one interface. This allows for decisions and actions to be taken based on the best knowledge available.
PHIMS visualizes environmental and population-based data in real-time. This facilitates the identification of environmental emergencies earlier than traditional public health methods. This allows communities to better prepare and prioritize resources in the event of a public health emergency.
On December 17, 2013, a large fire broke out in a construction site near downtown Kingston. Due to the size of the fire, PHIMS was used to monitor wind patterns and air quality. PHIMS Vulnerable Populations layer (which indicates the location of the populations most likely to require first responders’ assistance in the event of an evacuation) was overlaid with the Winds and Air Quality layers. Using PHIMS as a real-time indication of environmental health, in combination with the demographic information made it a valuable tool to protect the health of the Kingston population during this event.