Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Geographic Information Systems, more commonly known as GIS, are computer-based decision support systems that link geographic information with descriptive information. The main feature of GIS is the ability to display geospatial representations of data in map format. These maps help policy makers anticipate future outcomes and allow them to analyze data. For example, data on demographic, socioeconomic and disease prevalence for individuals residing in certain counties can be entered as in a GIS system. Each of the data fields would receive its own layer. All of the layers could be superimposed on census maps to display the data to track disease incidence In a certain area. The use of GIS is exploding in the public health arena.

Overview of GIS

GIS.com: Developed by ESRI, the leading maker of GIS software, this site provides an excellent introduction to GIS.

Public Health Applications

Cancer Mortality Maps and Graphs: Provides interactive maps, graphs, text, tables and figures showing geographic patterns and time trends of cancer death rates for the time period 1950-1994 for more than 40 cancers

CDC/USGS West Nile Virus Maps: Contains maps detailing county-level human, mosquito, veterinary, avian and sentinel data and information on West Nile Virus outbreaks.

EPA EnviroMapper: Allows users to map various types of environmental information, including air releases, drinking water, toxic releases, hazardous wastes, water discharge permits, and Superfund sites.

FEMA Mapping and Analysis Center: Provides national level GIS support and maps for natural disasters including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Geographic Products and Information

Census 2000: An index to data files and maps based on the 2000 Census. This site also provides a link to TIGER, an automatic digital mapping database from the US Census Bureau.

Injury Maps

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: CDC Injury Center’s interactive mapping system, Injury Maps allows users to create county-level and state-level maps of age-adjusted mortality rates for the entire US and for individual states.

Interactive Atlas of Reproductive Health: A web-based interactive geographic information system (GIS) dedicated to reproductive health issues such as infant mortality, fertility, and low birth weight.

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) GIS and Public Health: Designed to provide information on GIS at NCHS and in the larger public health community, you can access current or past reports of Public Health GIS News and Information, selected maps, and links to related sites.

USGS Geography: This website from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) contains a variety of mapping and geographic resources. Several federal agencies create maps using USGS data.

World Health Organization Public Health Mapping: The system allows the computer-assisted visualization of disease foci, the monitoring of newly infected or reinfected villages, the identification of at-risk populations, and the highly targeted, cost-effective distribution of interventions.