GIS for Health Information Science


GIS, or Geographic Information System uses spacial referencing to map information around the globe. Scientists, geographers and others can study and analyze this information based on geographic principles. GIS is being used for everything from Urban Planning to marketing, Most recently doctors and scientists are looking to GIS to collect information in the health arena.

GIS in Health Care

Many health problems and the tracks of communicable diseases can be measured in terms of location. With this helpful information researchers and scientists can see trends and epidemics and work towards solving these problems before they get worse. Additionally, the medical community can spot causes and research cures for many of the worlds health issues. According to the Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI), GIS plays a critical role in determining where and when to intervene, improving the quality of care, increasing accessibility of service, finding more cost-effective delivery modes, and preserving patient confidentiality while satisfying the needs of the research community for data accessibility.

One of the most important uses of GIS within the Health care arena is in the realm of public health. ESRI's website site states that: Public health uses of GIS include tracking child immunizations, conducting health policy research, and establishing service areas and districts. GIS provides a way to move data from the project level so that it can be used by the entire organization. Clinical and administrative information can be dissemination in a visual and geographic manner that is readily understood.

The World Health Organization recognizes the importance of GIS in healthcare stating: in order to properly plan, manage and monitor any public health program, it is cital that up-to-date, relevant information is available to decision-makers at all levels of the public health system. As every disease problem or health event requires a different response and policy decision, information must be available that reflects a realistic assessment of the situation at a local, national and global levels. This must be doen with best available data and taking into consideration disease transmission dynamics, demographics, availability of and accessibility to existing health and social services as well as other geographic and environmental features.

Mapping public health in Burkina Faso
Mapping public health in Burkina Faso

Uses of GIS in public health (from WHO)
  • Determining geographic distribution of diseases
  • Analysing spatial and temporal trends
  • Mapping populations at risk
  • Stratifying risk factors
  • Assessing resource allocation
  • Planning and targeting interventions
  • Monitoring diseases and interventions over time

This map shows locations of hospitals in relation to their patients
Other Sources

Sample of GIS uses in healthcare
2008 GIS Health Conference

GIS for Health and Human Services
World Health Organization