geography of medicine

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A field of geography that considers the distribution of specific diseases and human characteristics in relation to the geographical and topographical features of regions, countries, or the world. In its initial incarnation, medical geography was an enquiry into the environmental correlations of diseases; see Brown and Moon (2004) J. Hist. Geog. 30. Medical geographers also became interested in the spatial distributions of those medical facilities, from hospitals to clinics to GP surgeries, that society ‘invents’ to treat diseases (Philo (2004) NZ Geogr. 63, 2). Parr (2002) PHG26, 2 lists geographical variations in incidences of disease, and the complex intersections between health, illness, place, and space, as key issues, while calling for more attention to the body. Medical geographers map/represent disease incidence (new cases) or prevalence spatially, to identify social or environmental factors associated with disease and locate areas where risk is particularly high. ‘Most medical geographers are well aware of the statistical challenges associated with the analysis and representation of aggregate geographic data—the small numbers problem, the modifiable areal units problem and the ecological fallacy are perhaps most often of concern’ (Yiannakoulias et al. (2005) Canad. Geogr./Géogr. canad. 49, 3). Philo (op. cit.) argues that ‘the human being—living, experiencing, thinking, feeling, often anxious, perhaps suffering, maybe dying—risks obliteration when expressed as “patients”, disease entities, figures in graphs, or dots on maps’. See Sui (2007) Geog. Compass 1, 3 on GIS and medical geography, and Smyth (2008) PHG32, 1 on the geographies of health inequalities.

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography.

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