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Med-e-Tel 2009 – eHealth in space April 2, 2009

Posted by peterjmurray in conference, Europe, health informatics.
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There are several sessions about eHealth in ‘extreme environmental conditions’, which are mainly about health and space weather; the sessions are in co-operation with the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (www.aeronomie.be), part of Space Pole. They sound interesting, so I thought I would attend a few sessions. the first talk is by Norma Crosby, titled “Health issues and space weather: an introduction”. She started with an introduction to space weather and its effects, both in space and on earth, and a look to the future. Space weather touches everyone directly or indirectly; mobile phones rely on satellites, for example, and solar disturbances in space, for example, can cause problems. Space weather is about conditions on the Sun and in the solar wind and the layers of the atmosphere on earth, which can influence space-borne and ground-based technological systems – how solar activity can have unwanted effects. The Sun is the driver of local space weather; Sun has an 11 year cycle of activity, although solar flares can have influences at any time. Space weather induced effects include damage on satellites, increased radiation to airline passengers, etc.

Health issues relate to ‘space biology’ – how gravity (or lack of it) affects cells, gravity can affect development of cells, and radiation biology. Radiation sickness can be a problem for astronauts having long exposure on space missions; sometimes airlines have to change routes if are high levels of solar activity, esp. on polar routes. There will be increasing numbers of people affected with rise of space tourism. There can also be affects on earth’s magnetic field, in particular at higher latitudes. ‘Indirect indicators’ include temporal and spatial variations in epidemiological data.

Long space voyages, eg to Mars, will mean the need for telemedicine; there will be problems due to long communication delays, and also due to loss of geomagnetic shielding from solar wind problems.

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