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GIS for Public Health: A Guide: Welcome

Resources for GIS and Geocoding in relation to public health

Liaison Librarian

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Rudolph Matas Library. Health Sciences Reference Dept.
1430 Tulane Ave, New Orleans LA 70112


GIS plays an essential role in helping public health organizations make decisions. With the powerful tools and solutions that GIS technology brings to the desktop, we can improve understanding of community health needsand design effective interventions. 

What is GIS?

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is computer hardware and software that allows users to manage, visualize and analyze spatial data utilizing maps.

What can you do with GIS?

What makes GIS a powerful data analysis and visualization tool is that the possibilities are seemingly endless. Researchers in every discipline are using GIS to answer their research questions. Below is a list of 1000 innovative projects in every discipline completed using GIS.

What is Geospatial Data?

Geospatial data is data that contains location or geographic information. This means that the records in a dataset have locational information tied to them such as geographic data in the form of coordinates, address, city, or ZIP code. Geospatial data comes in many formats. The format type depends on data to be displayed. File formats are categorized as vector, raster, imagery, and legacy GIS file formats.They can then be layered and analyzed to visualize data.

Spatial Analysis

Definition from the ESRI Dictionary:

"The process of examining the locations, attributes, and relationships of features in spatial data through overlay and other analytical techniques in order to address a question or gain useful knowledge. Spatial analysis extracts or creates new information from spatial data".

Spatial Analysis skills have many uses ranging from emergency management and other city services, business location and retail analysis, transportation modeling, crime and disease mapping, and natural resource management.

Spatial analysis answers where questions. Where is the location(s) with the highest crime rate? Where has geological change occured? Where is the best location for a new restaurant?

Below is an example of a research project completed using GIS to analyze crime trends. The video walks you through the entire process. From locating and downloading your data to uploading, manipulating, analyzing and interpreting results. 


Definition from the ESRI Dictionary:

"Geoprocessing is a GIS operation used to manipulate GIS data. A typical geoprocessing operation takes an input dataset, performs an operation on that dataset, and returns the result of the operation as an output dataset. Common geoprocessing operations include geographic feature overlay, feature selection and analysis, topology processing, raster processing, and data conversion. Geoprocessing allows for definition, management, and analysis of information used to form decisions".

Simply, geoprocessing involves employing an appropriate tool(s) to conduct a spatial analysis to create new information/data.

Below is a video that demonstrates how to use several geoprocessing tools to conduct a spatial analyisis.

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