Development of SOVAT: A numerical-spatial decision support system for community health assessment research

Matthew Scotch, Bambang Parmanto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Introduction: The development of numerical-spatial routines is frequently required to solve complex community health problems. Community health assessment (CHA) professionals who use information technology need a complete system that is capable of supporting the development of numerical-spatial routines. Background: Currently, there is no decision support system (DSS) that is effectively able to accomplish this task as the majority of public health geospatial information systems (GIS) are based on traditional (relational) database architecture. On-Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) is a multidimensional data warehouse technique that is commonly used as a decision support system in standard industry. OLAP alone is not sufficient for solving numerical-spatial problems that frequently occur in CHA research. Coupling it with GIS technology offers the potential for a very powerful and useful system. Methodology: A community health OLAP cube was created by integrating health and population data from various sources. OLAP and GIS technologies were then combined to develop the Spatial OLAP Visualization and Analysis Tool (SOVAT). Results: The synergy of numerical and spatial environments within SOVAT is shown through an elaborate and easy-to-use drag and drop and direct manipulation graphical user interface (GUI). Community health problem-solving examples (routines) using SOVAT are shown through a series of screen shots. Discussion: The impact of the difference between SOVAT and existing GIS public health applications can be seen by considering the numerical-spatial problem-solving examples. These examples are facilitated using OLAP-GIS functions. These functions can be mimicked in existing GIS public applications, but their performance and system response would be significantly worse since GIS is based on traditional (relational) backend. Conclusion: OLAP-GIS system offer great potential for powerful numerical-spatial decision support in community health analysis. The functionality of an OLAP-GIS system has been shown through a series of example community health numerical-spatial problems. Efforts are now focused on determining its usability during human-computer interaction (HCI). Later work will focus on performing summative evaluations comparing SOVAT to existing decision support tools used during community health assessment research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-784
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Issue number10-11
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Community health assessment
  • Geographic information systems
  • Numerical-spatial problem solving
  • On-Line Analytical Processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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