Towards a Participatory Methodology for Community Data Generation to Analyse Urban Health Inequalities: A Multi-Country Case Study

This paper has been publised in the Proceedings of the 52nd Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences


This paper presents results from the application of a methodological framework developed as part of an ongoing research project focused on understanding inequalities in the healthcare access of slum residents of cities in four countries: Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and Nigeria. We employ a systematic approach to produce, curate and analyse volunteered geographic information (VGI) on urban communities, based on a combination of collaborative satellite-imagery digitization and participatory mapping, which relies upon geospatial open-source technologies and the collaborative mapping platform OpenStreetMap. Our approach builds upon and extends humanitarian mapping practices, in order to address the twofold challenge of achieving equitable community engagement whilst generating spatial data that adheres quality standards to produce rigorous and trusted evidence for policy and decision making. Findings show that our method generated promising results both in terms of community engagement and the production of high-quality data on communities to analyse urban inequalities.

Keywords: Innovations in Health Equity
Information Technology in Healthcare
collaborative mapping, OpenStreetMap, participatory mapping, urban inequality, slum

Slum health mapping as catalyst for a collaborative agenda for research, practice, local citizens and volunteers

Presentation by João Porto de Albuquerque, Godwin Yeboah, Vangelis Pitidis, and Philipp Ulbrich at State Of The Map 2018


Background and purpose. Following the paradigmatic examples of the use of OSM for crisis mapping, there have been sustained efforts to use OSM for mapping preventively vulnerable communities in the global South. This includes, for instance, participatory mapping in the slums of sub-Saharan Africa (Hagen, 2017) and the Missing Maps project. Researchers have also started to study these mapping activities (e.g. Albuquerque et al. 2016; Herfort et al. 2017). However, a collaborative agenda in this area is missing that is able to reflect views and needs of researchers, OSM volunteers, humanitarian organisation practitioners and local communities.

Methodology and Findings. After a brief review of existing methods used for mapping disadvantaged communities and slums, we introduce the approach and report on preliminary results from an ongoing large-scale project (NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Improving Health in Slums), which uses OSM for mapping slums in five cities: Dhaka (Bangladesh), Karachi (Pakistan), Nairobi (Kenya), Ibadan and Lagos (Nigeria). Our methods are based on the combination of satellite imagery digitisation with ground-truthing and participatory mapping. The maps produced will result in enhanced information regarding environmental features of the slums and the location of healthcare facilities, which will also be used as a basis for the health-science surveys of the project. In this manner, our approach is aimed at achieving a threefold goal: (a) participation and inclusion of local stakeholders as a strategy to build resilience; (b) worldwide collaboration, connecting to the global Humanitarian OSM network and student mapping societies; (c) quality evaluation mechanisms for generating high-quality data that can also be used for scientific research.

Final discussion/Impact. We would like to discuss the approach and results of our project as a basis to invite OSM researchers, practitioners and volunteers to join us in defining a collaborative agenda towards improving methods and practice for mapping vulnerable communities in OSM. This should include challenges from an interdisciplinary perspective that account for technical, methodological, social and ethical issues. As a result, we would like to contribute to the emergence of an OSM research agenda that goes beyond solely using OSM geographic data for research, but also includes ways of engaging the OSM community and local communities in the research process.

Recorded audio presentation from SoTM2018 event (YouTube)

Tweets from SoTM2018 event

Question time snapshots after our presentation (click photo to see source url)


















 The research waphrc.orgas commissioned by the National Institute of Health Research using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.


CHPD Hosts Korail Slum Mapathon at IUB

The Centre for Health, Population and Development (CHPD) at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) organized a mapathon on 31st March, 2018. The event was part of an international collaboration with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Global Health Research Unit on Improving Health in Slums. This project is led by the University of Warwick, England and conducted in four countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Principal Investigator for the Bangladesh arm of the study is Professor Rita Yusuf, with Professor Omar Rahman as the co-PI.  The NIHR Global Research Unit aims to improve health services in nine slums across Asia and Africa.

In the mapathon, faculty members at IUB and community volunteers used satellite imagery in OpenStreetMap (OSM) to create a map of Korail slum in Mohakhali, Dhaka. This map will help examine current health services and facilities and understand how these are used in the slum. Support for the mapathon was provided by the mapping team at Pathao, a transportation technology company in Dhaka, Bangladesh. GIS experts from Mitra and Associates, a survey-research firm, also participated in the mapathon.  CHPD Associates Ms. Tarzia Choudhury and Mr. Ornob Alam were instrumental in coordinating the mapping and mapathon. Some photographs taken during the mapping event are as follows.

 The research waphrc.orgas commissioned by the National Institute of Health Research using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.