Online geographic information systems for improving health planning practice: Lessons learned from the case study of Logan-Beaudesert, Australia
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This study examines the impact of utilising a Decision Support System (DSS) in a practical health planning study. Specifically, it presents a real-world case of a community-based initiative aiming to improve overall public health outcomes. Previous studies have emphasised that because of a lack of effective information, systems and an absence of frameworks for making informed decisions in health planning, it has become imperative to develop innovative approaches and methods in health planning practice. Online Geographical Information Systems (GIS) has been suggested as one of the innovative methods that will inform decision-makers and improve the overall health planning process. However, a number of gaps in knowledge have been identified within health planning practice: lack of methods to develop these tools in a collaborative manner; lack of capacity to use the GIS application among health decision-makers perspectives, and lack of understanding about the potential impact of such systems on users.This study addresses the abovementioned gaps and introduces an online GIS-based Health Decision Support System (HDSS), which has been developed to improve collaborative health planning in the Logan-Beau desert region of Queensland, Australia. The study demonstrates a participatory and iterative approach undertaken to design and develop the HDSS. It then explores the perceived user satisfaction and impact of the tool on a selected group of health decision makers. Finally, it illustrates how decision-making processes have changed since its implementation. The overall findings suggest that the online GIS-based HDSS is an effective tool, which has the potential to play an important role in the future in terms of improving local community health planning practice. However, the findings also indicate that decision-making processes are not merely informed by using the HDSS tool. Instead, they seem to enhance the overall sense of collaboration in health planning practice. Thus, to support the Healthy Cities approach, communities will need to encourage decision-making based on the use of evidence, participation and consensus, which subsequently transfers into informed actions.
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