United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

Satellite Communications

Tele-education and tele-health


There are about 1,400 communicable diseases and half of the world's population lives in endemic areas. Public health and epidemiology in particular has become a hot topic recently, mainly because of the SARS crisis and the pending threat of pandemic influenza. Despite the advances of modern medicine, diseases like malaria, dengue fever and even the plague still afflict millions of people each year, crippling some while proving fatal to others. Many of the diseases are spread through mosquitoes, which can cause widespread epidemics by infecting people or animals, and then flying to another target. Malaria alone infects up to 500 million persons each year, killing at least a million.

The interest for environmental monitoring is growing because global environmental changes are affecting many sectors of the economy. Even in the field of human and animal health it is now recognised that global change has a significant effect on environment-dependent diseases. In addition, it is now commonly accepted that on top of seasonal changes, climate and therefore climate change plays a role in the transmission of many infectious/communicable diseases, of which some are among the most important causes of mortality and morbidity in developing countries.

In recent years earth observation technology has been used to improve risk mapping for communicable diseases such as malaria, blue tongue, water-borne cholera. Advances in satellite-based remote sensing and global positioning, in geographic information systems and computer processing now make it easier to integrate ecological, environmental and other data, to develop predictive models that can be used in disease surveillance and control activities. However, the capabilities of remote sensing technology have not been fully disseminated to the health investigators and agencies that could be using them.

UNOOSA, through its Programme on Space Applications has been conducting a series of workshops and pilot projects on the satellite-based technology to address the tele-health/tele-epidemiology issues.

Below are the list of the major activities related to tele-health/tele-epidemiology issues that have been and planned to be organized in the framework of SAP.



UNISPACE III Action Team on Public Health  (Action Team 6)

Following the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space ( UNISPACE III), Action Teams were established by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to implement the recommendations of the Conference.

Action Team 6 was established to foster the implementation of tele-health for developing countries and to improve public health services by faciliting the applications of space technologies in the early warning of infectious diseases.

Available online resources

  • United Nations/India/USA Pilot Project "Telemedicine in the Reconstruction of Afghanistan" Expert Meeting, Amritha Institute of Medical Sciences, Cochin, India, 29 - 31 August 2006
    Online Presentations


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