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Geographic Information System

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Geographic Information Systems (GIS) captures, stores, analyses and manages data that is geographically related. The system is capable of integrating, storing, analyzing, and sharing geographically-referenced information. GIS allows users to create queries that are interactive, analyze spatial information, data, and maps, and allows for the presentation of the results of these operations. Thus, GIS is used as a platform for information integration and as an analytical tool supporting detailed data analysis (Barnard & Hu, 2005). As Barnard and Hu (2005) note, traditional epidemiological constructs, such as disease rates and distributions, and utilization-based reporting, such as numbers and costs of services, alone cannot support the integrated view, which is needed for a population health approach. The Health GIS (HGIS) system enables data assets to be turned into person and population-based perspective. With a HGIS, the theory of the population health approach can be transformed into a practical, stepwise process supporting health services and program planning. The health needs of people in the context of health influences, services, and outcomes can also be clearly represented. In order to integrate most commonly available spatial information such as census geographies, postal codes, boundaries of local health authorities, and commercial spatial data including street network files, the HGIS utilizes ArcGIS spatial technology (Barnard & Hu, 2005). The HGIS is used to identify the population to be served and to define the geographical boundary of the area.

The GIS’s ability for spatial analysis and display allow a “holistically organized” view of a community and its citizens because it provides for the overlay and analysis of interrelationships among these disparate data (NYS, 2006). This type of holistic view allows more effective and efficient delivery and design of services. I believe that the ability to overlay information about a variety of topics is the most useful feature of the GIS. Through this, different views of a place can be seen, and thus can be combined to answer questions, and the combinations being limited only by the kinds of questions that need to be answered, and the kind of available spatial data (NYS, 2006). For example, a GIS can detect a relationship between the location of an old dump site and the incidence of childhood cancer (NYS, 2006). Thus, with the GIS being able to overlay information on a variety of topics, it can promote economic development, public health and safety, and environmental quality (NYS, 2006).

For a GIS to be effective, many kinds of resources are needed. The most important feature of GIS is the data that is coded to include information about location. I believe that all of the features of the GIS are beneficial when it comes to public health. Thus, although this data feature is very useful, it is very expensive to obtain, therefore, this may be a disadvantage to GIS. In addition, other resources for GIS include standardizing spatial data that will allow different users to understand characteristics of

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