News release

World population mapping helps combat poverty and poor health

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27 November 2013

Dr Andy Tatem

Andy is leading a project to map world population

A team of researchers led by the University of Southampton has launched an online project to map detailed population information from countries around the world.

The WorldPop website aims to provide open access to global demographic data which can be used to help tackle challenges such as, poverty, public health, sustainable urban development and food security.

Geographer at Southampton Dr Andy Tatem, who is leading the project, says: “Our maps and data are helping charities, policy-makers, governments and researchers to make decisions which affect the quality of people’s lives. These could be as diverse as predicting the spread of infectious diseases, planning the development of transport systems or distributing vital aid to disaster zones.”

He continues: “For example, in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines with devastating effect, international organisations were able to download information about population density from our website to help with estimating impact and delivering aid efforts.”

With principal funding coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (USA), WorldPop combines country specific data from national statistics services, household surveys and other sources to construct detailed population distribution maps. Satellite imagery is also exploited to provide information on the density of urban areas, land cover and transport networks, all of which are used to improve the accuracy of the population maps.

The website currently provides freely-available data for Central and South America, Africa and Asia – providing maps of population numbers and age distributions, births, pregnancies, urban growth and rates of poverty. Each country has its own summary page and the user can choose from a range of high resolution maps of their particular area of interest to download.

Dr Tatem comments: “The global human population is growing by over 80 million a year, and is projected to reach the 10 billion mark within 50 years. The vast majority of this growth is expected to be concentrated in low income countries, and primarily in urban areas. The effects of such rapid growth are well documented, with the economies, environment and health of nations all undergoing significant change.

“High resolution, contemporary data on human population distributions and their compositions, which WorldPop provides, are necessary to accurately measure the impacts of population growth, in order to monitor change and plan interventions.”

The researchers from the University of Southampton, Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), University of Louisville (USA) and the University of Florida (USA) now plan to extend the project to cover all continents in the world. They also stress that the individual country datasets are regularly updated as necessary, as populations change over time and new input data arise.

For more information about WorldPop visit: www.worldpop.org.uk/about/

Geography and Environment

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