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Best practices in availability, management and use of geospatial data to guide reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health programmes
  1. Yordanos B Molla1,
  2. Kristine Nilsen2,
  3. Kavita Singh3,
  4. Corrine Warren Ruktanonchai2,
  5. Michelle M Schmitz4,
  6. Jennifer Duong5,
  7. Florina Serbanescu4,
  8. Allisyn C Moran6,
  9. Zoe Matthews7,
  10. Andrew J Tatem2
  1. 1Pathfinder International, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  2. 2WorldPop Research Group, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  3. 3MEASURE Evaluation/UNC, Chapel hills, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  5. 5American Red Cross, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  6. 6Global Health Fellows Program II, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington, DC, USA
  7. 7Department of Social Statistics and Demography, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yordanos B Molla; ymolla{at}

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Summary box

  • The commentary provides a set of considerations and some examples for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) programmes that wish to use geospatial data.

  • Monitoring RMNCAH data trends or change over time and estimating disease burden remain major challenges due to limited reliable geolocated data sources, inconsistent spatial denominators and technical capacity needs.

  • Increased availability of spatial data, such as satellite imagery and geolocated survey and facility data, coupled with recent methodological refinements, has created new opportunities for use of geographic information systems to achieve spatial disaggregation of RMNCAH data and highlights subnational monitoring among vulnerable populations.

  • More refined geospatial analyses can help to close the gap for countries with high maternity-related deaths and suffering.


Improving reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) has been at the centre of international and national development strategies for decades. Closing the inequality gap in mortality and coverage of RMNCAH services continues to be central to global development and is a key objective of the renewed global commitment to ‘leave no one behind’.1 To successfully target poor and other hard-to-reach groups, stakeholders need up-to-date, highly disaggregated subnational estimates of RMNCAH service coverage, quality of care and staffing, which are not readily available in low-income and middle-income countries. The application of geospatial analysis in RMNCAH provides a unique advantage to develop subnational estimates of mortality and service coverage. For example, including geocoded attributes in health facility and household survey datasets can identify subnational inequality hotspots (places of significant inequality) with high-resolution RMNCAH coverage maps.

In a recent review of the application of geospatial methods to maternal and child health, Ebener et al2 broadly categorised the field into three approaches in increasing order of complexity:

  • thematic mapping (creation of basic maps to convey a topic or theme),

  • spatial analyses (creation or …

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