The GRiD- DSS - The Geospatial Risk Database dashboard. The technology is developed to track Covid-19 cases in real-time by a team of engineers, health professionals, and developers at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan. (Image taken from the Xavier University website)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A team of engineers, health professionals, and software developers at Xavier University (XU)– Ateneo de Cagayan has developed a database that aims to support local governments and national agencies in Northern Mindanao to track and analyze situations of communities vulnerable to the coronavirus disease.

Known as the Geospatial Risk Database (GRiD), the university-led innovation sets creates a decision support system (DSS) in partnership with the Department of Health Region 10 (DOH-10) to “manage, prepare and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts in the region.”

Dexter Lo, XU College of Engineering professor who manages the university’s disaster risk and resilience initiative, said on Saturday that the GRiD-DSS works best with a geospatial approach.

“The added-value of having geo-referenced data is that we can immediately locate where a particular parameter, case, or event is,” Lo said, adding the system is effective even from a household level.

For instance, he said the database can pin the location and set parameters in case a person under investigation (PUI) resides in a particular area.

Lo said that this is helpful for a local government's emergency operations center to “overlay buffer zones for immediate cordon.”

By identifying a specific location at risk, Lo said that the GRiD-DSS presents data that will influence decisions of a particular local government unit (LGU) not to put the entire city or province at a total lockdown--but only implement it at the scope closest to the exposed area.

“With this information, the LGU is able to implement policies and strategies that are more accurate and appropriate," he said.

In terms of accuracy, Lo said the GRiD-DSS still relies on the “garbage in, garbage out” method, which means it processes the information it is being given.

“Like any other digital computing, the accuracy depends on what we put into the system,” Lo said, adding that this is crucial to the information it receives besides the number of suspected cases.

Dr. Gina Itchon, a professor for public health in the School of Medicine who is also involved with the project, said the system is open to relating data with any factors as long as numbers are available.

“We can look at the number of Covid-19 suspects in relation to access to water, access to health services, relationship to the portion of the population with co-morbidities such as hypertension and diabetes mellitus,” Itchon said.

The system can also help researchers and health professionals formulate reasonable future recommendations based on science and available data, she added.

In coordination with DOH-10, Itchon said the XU team is mapping out the parameters that exhibit potential Covid-19 risks and impacts in the city.

Lo said that as a risk database, GRiD-DSS acquires information with the right context such as the affected barangay, the progress of disinfection operations, and access to quarantine facilities.

Although the system has initially covered Region 10 with a primary focus on this city, he said GRiD-DSS is open to expanding its scope.  

“Geospatial analysis teaches us how important it is to include what’s happening beyond borders,” Lo said, noting Cagayan de Oro’s location as a transport hub for neighboring cities and municipalities.

He added that with the help of the National Resilience Council (NRC), the university is looking forward to conducting online training or webinars for LGUs interested to participate. (PNA)