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The world-leading technology behind the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 map has been used by an Australian National University (ANU) student in an award-winning piece of research into the perinatal healthcare of Australian women.

The research was undertaken by ANU student Cynthia Parayiwa, who used advanced Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to determine how a patient’s location and socio-economic conditions affect birth outcomes.

The value of the research has now been recognised on the global stage, winning the Esri Young Scholar Award for Australia, which celebrates world-leading applications of GIS technology by tertiary students.

Ms Parayiwa said in light of the critical role GIS technology has held in response and recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand the broader applications of the software across other health outcomes.

“GIS technology allowed me to identify concentrated clusters of women who live in low welfare areas with adverse antenatal results,” Ms Parayiwa said.

“The other significant element of this research is it allows us to identify where services need to be improved in particular areas of Australia and use this insight to deliver more meaningful location-based policies.”

Ms Parayiwa’s research findings uncovered that in some areas of regional Queensland, only 32% of women sought antenatal care, as a result of poor access to hospitals amongst other contributing factors – compared to 80% of women in urbanised areas.

Furthermore, the research found women who live in remote regions – approximately 29% of Australia’s female population – typically get categorised in the perinatal healthcare of larger, more developed areas, which means their health services are not tailored or relevant to their rural location.

“This research provides evidence that this needs to be addressed in order to ensure equity of service and more positive health outcomes for all Australian women,” said Ms Parayiwa.

Esri Australia’s National Business Manager, Lisa Dykes, said Ms Parayiwa’s research is an inspiring example of using technology to deliver actionable insight that addresses national challenges around health, critical services and remote living.

“GIS technology is already being used by the nation’s human services and health agencies – so it’s encouraging to see a student take a different approach to understand the correlation between health and location,” Ms Dykes said.

“Ms Parayiwa’s work exemplifies the spirit of the Esri Young Scholar Award, which helps equip future leaders with spatial technology skills to deliver data-driven solutions.”

Find out more about the other Esri Young Scholar Award winners.

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