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Public Health geospatial data with Zope

by Nicolas Bossut last modified 2009-06-30 11:09

Health Atlas Ireland is an open source Geographical Information System (GIS). The system enables to plan health services and health data analysis. The project, led by Irish Health Sector, is based on Zope3. OpenApp, a Zea member SME, was in charge of the technical development ensuring a smooth integration with the core technology.


Health Atlas Ireland integrates geographical information technologies, database and statistical techniques. A user friendly interface supports web-enabled access across the Irish health sector and collaborating agencies.

Health Atlas is a 'voyage of discovery' for health service planning and health event data analysis. The purpose of the system is to help answer questions related to health events, emergency response, health services and demographics, initially in the Republic of Ireland and eventually worldwide as related to Irish Health Services.

Grant aided by the Health Research Board, the Atlas is custom built and led by the public health sector in partnership with two universities. It supports service planning/delivery, health mapping, geospatial research, environmental incident response and informing the general public.

Main functions

Characteristics include:
  • Presents data in charts or maps similar to Google Maps – number, icons, thematics, statistically processed data, multi-variate cartograms
  • Epidemiological and service location analyses are central themes.
  • No data is pre-analysed, supports small number supression
  • An information governance framework ensures data protection, with role-based access depending on training/skill, the agency, and need to analyse or view data.
  • Allows drill down to small area and point data where available.
  • Access is menu driven allowing excellent user control.
  • Is scalable and extensible – easy to add new data.
  • Uses exclusively open source software complying with open standards - R for computation, GRASS for spatial mapping, PostGIS, Mapserver  and Zope / PCL / Python for security and integration.
The Atlas is being developed on an iterative base and currently contains:
  • Datasets: census; hospital activity; cancer incidence; road collision locations, mortality, births, perinatal data; vaccine uptake.
  • Map layers: full suite of Ordnance Survey raster (including orthography) and vector maps from national to house level.
  • Computations: indirect and direct standardised ratios, Bayesian smoothing, cartography, clusters (eg Kernel, Potthill Whittinghill, Stone)
  • Integration with GeoDirectory, public dynamic queries.


Development began in early 2006. All planned functionality has already been proven in the field. The open-source design offers great potential for its use in emerging economies and developed countries alike.

More informations

Mel McIntyre - OpenApp (Ireland)