Using Earth Observation Data to Improve Health in the United States

Earth observations enable us to monitor and predict key environmental phenomena and events that can affect our health. Earth observation data can be incorporated into models to help detect, monitor, or predict disease, providing policymakers with the opportunity to control an epidemic, respond more quickly to disease outbreaks, and act to prevent or mitigate the occurrence of disease. A number of U.S. government Earth observation and public health organizations are engaged in research and applications of remote sensing data and cooperate in science and operational coalitions to address health issues. In this report, Lyn D. Wigbels examines the efforts of and interactions between Earth observation providers (National Aeronautics and Space Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the public health community (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, and U.S. Agency for International Development).

While these efforts have begun to actualize the benefits of Earth observations for public health, improvements are possible in several areas to increase these benefits and enable policymakers and the public health community to better address health issues. These include increases of and enhancements in remote sensing capabilities; continuity of Earth observation data and research; integration and interoperability of satellite, in situ, health, and socioeconomic data; increased development and application of models and decision-support tools to analyze and apply these data; and enhanced dialogue between the Earth observation and public health communities. Wigbels identifies several steps that should be taken to achieve these improvements and fully deliver on the potential of Earth observations for public health.