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Dr Maged Boulos from the University of Bath's School for Health
Dr Maged Boulos from the University of Bath's School for Health

Press Release - 18 January 2005

London’s STD ‘hotspots’ targeted through new technology

A new kind of map that highlights sexually transmitted disease ‘hotspots’ in London will help healthcare workers target the areas that need the most help in preventing and treating diseases like genital warts, Chlamydia and HIV.

The 12 engineers from the University of Bath are constructing the car in preparation for the annual Formula Student competition on July 9, involving 80 teams from universities across the globe.

Figures published recently show that in 2003 the Camden Primary Care Trust had the highest rate of STD infections in London (26,987), with the capital accounting for almost one third (672,718) of all STD cases in England.

With the number STD cases rising steadily since the mid-1990s, these infections have become a major public health concern and healthcare workers are keen to arrest the spread of these diseases.

The new interactive cybermap, details of which will be published in the International Journal of Health Geographics today (Tuesday 18 January 2005), will help health planners examine closely the data and instantly spot trends in STD cases in different areas over time.

This will help them make decisions on improving access to genito-urinary medicine clinics and deciding on the expansion or closure of clinics, or the creation of new ones in the London area.

The map uses a table of figures published by the Government following a parliamentary question to the Minister for Public Health, Melanie Johnson MP, on 15 October 2004.

Though the table presents all of the requested data, it remains very difficult for the reader to fully appreciate the patterns and trends buried in them, or make quick and effective comparisons between the figures for different Primary Care Trusts or between the seven data sets for the years 1997 to 2003.

“Looking for patterns, trends and comparisons in this kind data is crucial for decision makers seeking to tackle public health issues,” said Dr Maged Boulos, the lecturer in healthcare informatics in the University of Bath’s School for Health, who developed the map in collaboration with Chris Russell and Michael Smith from Graphical Data Capture Ltd, London, UK..

“When combined with other data sources and maps, such as demographic, deprivation or social exclusion, transport and existing genito-urinary medicine clinic data sets, the new map could help ministers and public health officials channel their resources and target STD prevention programmes to the areas with the most need, or scale such programmes according to the magnitude of the problem in different areas.

“Importantly, it will also help monitor the impact of such programmes in a given area over time.

"Given the steadily rising STD rates in London over the past few years, current STD prevention/education programmes must be urgently stepped-up/revised, especially in those ‘hot’ areas with high rates."

The online interactive map has been made possible by the use of new web technology (Scalable Vector Graphics, or SVG) which allows people to create interactive maps and diagrams more easily. It requires users to download free Adobe SVG Viewer software.

The map of Sexually Transmitted Disease in London Primary Care Trusts from 1997-2003 is available free online at: http://healthcybermap.org/PCT/STDs/.

Notes

You can test to see if your machine already has SVG viewer software installed at: http://www.adobe.com/svg/viewer/install/svgtest.html. The map is best viewed using Internet Explorer.