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Public Health Observatory
Geographical Information Systems

​What is GIS?

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is the application and integration of computer, hardware, software, data, and procedures to help capture, store, manipulate, analyze, and present information that is tied to a spatial location.

How does GIS work?

A GIS provides researchers and analysts with the ability to view, interpret, query, and analyze geographic data to highlight relationships, patterns, and trends. It is driven by a unique type of database which describes the world in geographic terms. This information is used to create maps displaying the features in the database, and to examine their spatial relationships with each other and with other features of interest. Information can be integrated and presented efficiently and effectively, allowing people to see all the pieces at once.

A GIS is also a set of tools which allow for the detailed analysis of existing spatial information and the derivation of new information. This makes GIS a powerful tool to solve problems and support decision-making.

Public Health and the Power of Maps

Some say that epidemiologist John Snow's mapping of the London Broad Street cholera outbreak in 1854 is the first example of what would come to be known as GIS. Countless epidemiologists since have utilized pins in wall maps to track disease outbreaks. But the power of maps to demonstrate complex relationships, examine trends, and model information in space and time has application throughout the sphere of public health:

  • Health promotion, intervention and injury prevention
    • Targeting efforts to specific populations
    • Influence on public policy
  • Health outcomes and epidemiology
    • Surveillance and monitoring
    • Predictive modelling
  • Healthcare delivery applications
    • Program planning and service delivery
    • Access analysis and site selection
    • Emergency preparedness and response
  • GIS in the PHO

GIS capacity at the Public Health Observatory is being used to support a variety of projects and initiatives throughout Population and Public Health. At this time, these include:

  • GIS Projects in the PHO
    • Food Access in Saskatoon Community Report
    • Food Access in Saskatoon Two Page Summary



Last Modified: Thursday, February 26, 2015 |
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