In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section GIS and Health

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Theme 1. GIS-Based Visualization of Health Information

Geography GIS and Health
Yujie Hu, Steven Reader
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0211


The capability of GIS to be able to store, retrieve, display, and analyze large quantities of spatially referenced data has facilitated the rapid growth of geographic-based research within various health fields, including epidemiology and health care provisioning. This is reflected in the numerous texts focused entirely on GIS and health, as well as texts focused on geography and health that include substantial material on GIS. There are also journals where GIS-based health research frequently appears. This bibliography lists a number of these texts and journals. GIS-based health research is wide ranging, but several major themes can be identified. In this bibliography the first major theme presented is GIS-based visualization of health information, a topic which involves geocoding, disease-mapping methodologies, and alternative cartographic schemes of representation. The second major theme is GIS-derived measures for health research, where the focus is on how GIS has transformed how accessibility to health care is measured and enabled complex forms of environmental exposures to be derived for use in epidemiologic studies. The final theme is GIS-enabled analysis for health research where a deliberate choice was made to focus on those analytical areas which are only feasible through the specific spatial analytical capabilities of GIS.

General Overviews

A large body of literature exists in the field of GIS and health. Overviews of how GIS can be beneficial to health studies can be found in several popular texts and review articles. For example, Gatrell and Loytonen 1998 is perhaps one of the earliest texts in discussing GIS and its applications in health research. Melnick 2002, Cromley and McLafferty 2011, and McLafferty 2003 provide comprehensive reviews of GIS applications in public health. Other texts focus on summarizing GIS applications in the more general social sciences, including health studies, such as Ballas, et al. 2017 and Wang 2015. Some texts in the field of medical geography, such as Brown, et al. 2009; Emch, et al. 2017; and Gatrell and Elliott 2014 also cover some health GIS topics.

  • Ballas, Dimitris, Graham Clarke, Rachel S. Franklin, and Andy Newing. GIS and the Social Sciences: Theory and Applications. New York: Routledge, 2017.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315759326

    This is a recent GIS book, where Part 1 introduces fundamental concepts in GIS including data query, spatial analysis, visualization, and network analysis. Chapter 9 in Part 2 discusses GIS applications in health care planning.

  • Brown, Tim, Sara McLafferty, and Graham Moon. A Companion to Health and Medical Geography. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444314762

    Part 2 discusses the applications of GIS in mapping disease spatial patterns and modeling disease-spreading patterns. Part 4 covers the utilization of GIS and spatial models in understanding environmental health risk and neighborhood health.

  • Cromley, Ellen K., and Sara L. McLafferty. GIS and Public Health. London: Guilford Press, 2011.

    A well-known text in GIS and public health. It covers topics like GIS and spatial data (chapters 1, 2, 3); mapping health patterns (chapter 4); identifying spatial clustering patterns of health events (chapter 5); analyzing environmental hazards (chapter 6); infectious disease patterns (chapters 7, 8); and health accessibility (chapter 9).

  • Emch, Michael, Elisabeth D. Root, and Margaret Carrel. Health and Medical Geography. London: Guilford Press, 2017.

    The fourth edition of the popular textbook formerly titled Medical Geography. Chapter 5 covers GIS fundamentals (spatial data, geocoding, and scale effect) and the use of GIS in mapping and analyzing patterns (spatial clustering and spatial statistics) of health events. Chapter 13 discusses health care access, regionalization, and location-allocation.

  • Gatrell, Anthony C., and Susan J. Elliott. Geographies of Health: An Introduction. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.

    Chapter 3 discusses GIS methods (visualization and exploratory spatial data analysis) and some health applications.

  • Gatrell, Anthony, and Markku Loytonen, eds. GIS and Health. GISDATA 6. London: CRC Press, 1998.

    One of the earliest books on health GIS research. It covers the various applications of GIS in health studies such as spatial analysis, spatial statistical models, time geography, and Bayesian models.

  • McLafferty, Sara L. “GIS and Health Care.” Annual Review of Public Health 24.1 (2003): 25–42.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.24.012902.141012

    In this review article, McLafferty provides an in-depth review on the health GIS literature from the following aspects: (1) analyzing population demand, (2) measuring health access and identifying inequalities in access, (3) evaluating geographic variations in health resource utilization, and (4) locating health services.

  • Melnick, Alan L. Introduction to Geographic Information Systems in Public Health. New York: Aspen Publishers, 2002.

    This textbook covers GIS data (chapter 2), mapping techniques (chapter 3), analyzing disease risk (chapter 4), and disease transmission (chapter 5).

  • Wang, Fahui. Quantitative Methods and Socio-Economic Applications in GIS. London: CRC Press, 2015.

    Chapter 4 discusses the delineation of trade areas of public hospitals in Louisiana. Chapter 5 describes the popular Two-Step Floating Catchment Area (2SFCA) and its application in measuring health care accessibility, a big theme of health GIS studies. Chapter 9 focuses on the small population problem and the regionalization methods. Part of Chapter 11 covers health care resource optimization.

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