Developing a Vulnerability Mapping Methodology: Applying the Water-Associated Disease Index to Dengue in Malaysia

Developing a Vulnerability Mapping Methodology: Applying the Water-Associated Disease Index to Dengue in Malaysia

Dickin, S. K., Schuster-Wallace, C. J., & Elliott, S. J. (2013). Developing a vulnerability mapping methodology: applying the water-associated disease index to dengue in Malaysia. PLoS One, 8(5).

The Water-associated Disease Index (WADI) was developed to identify and visualize vulnerability to different water-associated diseases by integrating a range of social and biophysical determinants in map format. In this study vulnerability is used to encompass conditions of exposure, susceptibility, and differential coping capacity to a water-associated health hazard. By assessing these conditions, the tool is designed to provide stakeholders with an integrated and long-term understanding of subnational vulnerabilities to water-associated disease and contribute to intervention strategies to reduce the burden of illness. The objective of this paper is to describe and validate the WADI tool by applying it to dengue. A systemic ecohealth framework that considers links between people, the environment and health was applied to identify secondary datasets, populating the index with components including climate conditions, land cover, education status and water use practices. Data were aggregated to create composite indicators of exposure and of susceptibility in a Geographic Information System (GIS). These indicators were weighted by their contribution to dengue vulnerability, and the output consisted of an overall index visualized in map format. The WADI was validated in this Malaysia case study, demonstrating a significant association with dengue rates at a sub-national level, and illustrating a range of factors that drive vulnerability to the disease within the country. The index output indicated high vulnerability to dengue in urban areas, especially in the capital Kuala Lumpur and surrounding region. However, in other regions, vulnerability to dengue varied throughout the year due to the influence of seasonal climate conditions, such as monsoon patterns. The WADI tool complements early warning models for water-associated disease by providing upstream information for planning prevention and control approaches, which increasingly require a comprehensive and geographically broad understanding of vulnerability for implementation.