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More than a thousand words

Images are often thought of as illustrations to statistics or text. M4ID’s Images as Data project set to prove the assumption wrong. In 2018, the project collected around 1,600 photos for a new digital database collecting information of healthcare facilities in four low-resource countries.   
November 7, 2018

When M4ID’s
Images as Data project started in the spring 2018, the aim was to find a new way of collecting and organising information on health care facilities.  

“We often overlook the power of images to transmit information”, says Helena Vizcaino, visual creative who worked as the project manager.

“Data is often seen as just numbers and technical information, but our project started from the assumption, that by using images, we could actually provide new depth to the existing data on healthcare. Images are actually also data as themselves”.  

In the summer and fall of 2018, the teams travelled to India, Uganda, Kenya and Indonesia to collect photographic evidence of what healthcare infrastructure and the patient-provider interactions in different health care facilities looked like. 

Understanding everyday lives

Throughout the fall, the team worked on building a database of the images, and the work has now been completed. The database is intended to be used by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Global Good, a program, which works on developing technological solutions for development questions, to provide the organisations information on health care facilities and infrastructure in addition to patient-provider interactions in the selected countries.   

“The pictures serve well in highlighting the gaps and to give a deeper understanding of the context in which the health care is delivered”, Vizcaino adds.

The team visited basic primary health care centres as well as district and provincial hospitals in rural, peri-urban and urban locations, and documented the patient journey for different settings from for example maternal and newborn care to trauma and acute chronic care. Photos were taken to describe the patient journey from arrival to admission and discharge.

“We documented a long list of elements from access roads or paths to record taking, triage areas, equipment, furniture, supplies, storages and water sources. Through the photos we were able to depict what was the privacy of the patients as well as hygiene levels. In addition we photographed local homes to get an idea of every day lives: access to roads, as well as their food and water storages and so on”, Vizcaino tells.

See a snapshot of the photos below. 


Mother with a newborn baby in an Indian hospital

Mother with a newborn baby in an Indian hospital. Photo: Aashim Tyagi


Patient care in a rural Indian health centre

Patient care in a rural Indian health centre. Photo: Aashim Tyagi


Indonesian family home

Indonesian family home. Photo: Azcha Tobing


Food storage in a Kenyan hospital

Food storage in a Kenyan hospital. Photo: Nicholas Calvin. 


Medical records in an Ugandan facility

Medical records in an Ugandan facility. Photo: Anton Tevajärvi. 

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