Space for Global Health

The UNISPACE III resolution entitled "The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development" states that:
"… activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications should improve public health services by expanding and coordinating space-based services for telemedicine and for controlling infectious diseases."

The Programme on Space Applications:

  • promotes application of space-based solutions to health care by providing capacity building opportunities in the areas of tele-health and tele-epidemiology (landscape epidemiology),
  • assists Member States to use satellite remote sensing, global positioning, GIS and satellite communications to integrate ecological, environmental and habitation data into the development of predictive models used for disease surveillance and control activities

The Programme on Space Applications assists developing countries in advancing the use of space-based solutions for global health in the following areas:


There are about 1,400 infectious diseases, some of which are among the most important causes of death in developing countries. Half of the world's population lives in affected areas. Malaria alone infects up to 300 million persons each year, killing almost one million. The consequences of climate change play a role in the transmission of many infectious diseases. To combat epidemics with coordinated responses, there is a need to establish an integrated global alert system.

In recent years, information derived from Earth observation and meteorological satellites in combination with GIS and GNSS has increasingly been used to study disease epidemiology, enabling increased use of spatial analysis to identify the ecological, environmental and other factors that contribute to the spread of vector-borne diseases by locating "hot spots", monitoring disease patterns and defining the areas that require disease-control planning. The Programme on Space Applications assists developing countries in making use of space-based solutions to fight the spread of these diseases.

Tele-health and tele-medicine

Another major aspect addressed by the Programme is in the area of tele-health and telemedicine. Tele-health and telemedicine applications embrace computer and telecommunications technologies, including satellite communications, to bring medical experts into virtual contact with patients or doctors in remote and rural areas, thus avoiding a costly relocation to hospitals in urban areas, which could prove detrimental to the patients' health.

Recent activities

Some recent activities organized by UNOOSA in cooperation with Member States, specialized agencies and intergovernmental organizations in the area of application of space technologies to the global health included the following:

The Programme continues its support to the health-related mechanisms under the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, such as the STSC Working Group on Space and Global Health, the the STSC Expert Group on Space and Global Health (2015-2018); the UNISPACE III Action Team 6 follow-up initiative [AT6-FUI] (2011-2014), and the UNISPACE III Action Team on Public Health [action team 6] (2001-2011). In particular, the Programme provided support to the AT6-FUI for open community approach in tele-health and tele-medicine, and has collaborated with University of Koblenz-Landau of Germany and National Institute of Health of El Salvador in organizing the International Expert Teleconference on "Improving Public Health through Low Cost Technology and GPS Tailored Access to Risk Assessment and Resources" which took place from 28 to 29 October 2013 and was organized as a virtual meeting connecting in real time over the Internet experts from El Salvador, Canada, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, Austria and South Africa.

The Programme also provided advisory assistance and financial support to Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE) of Argentina for organizing the Third (2013) and Fourth (2014) Advanced School for Training in Landscape Epidemiology at CONAE Space Center in Cordoba, Argentina. This 2-week training programme was organized with objective to enhance the use of space tools in landscape epidemiology, and support provided by the Programme helped space agencies and research and academic institutions from developing countries in the region to benefit from participation in this event.

In 2014, Programme organized the United Nations/International Astronautical Federation Workshop on Space Technology for Socio-Economic Benefits (September 2014, Toronto, Canada), which discussed space technologies, applications, information and services that contribute to sustainable economic and social development programmes, with a primary focus on tele-health and tele-epidemiology. The Programme also organized International Expert Meeting on the International Space Station Benefits for Health (February 2014, Vienna, Austria).

Read more about the STSC Working Group on Space and Global Health

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