Chapter

Geographic information systems

Leslie Jones

in Essentials of Environmental Epidemiology for Health Protection

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199663415
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191759116 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/med/9780199663415.003.0013
Geographic information systems

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A geographic information system (GIS) is a computerized information system that contains geographic data representing various aspects of the real world categorized and described spatially (e.g. disease case locations, populations, or environmental hazards). These separate data layers in a geographic database can be brought together (or integrated) within a GIS to explore relationships between them, enabling generation and analysis of hypotheses using spatial techniques. GIS can also act as a valuable communication tool, enabling visual and intuitive presentation of results.

GIS have a wide range of uses in environmental epidemiology and public health in descriptive and analytical studies, and may complement standard methodologies. Whether considering a point source, such as a polluting site, or a network such as heavily-trafficked roads, GIS can be used to derive individual or group exposure estimates based on distance, and also to integrate modelled or measured hazard and exposure data. GIS can also be used in disease surveillance to examine spatiotemporal links and clusters, and in outbreak investigations to assist in source identification.

Chapter.  4035 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Epidemiology

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