GIS Technology Helps Map Disease and Health Trends

GIS Technology Helps Map Disease and Health Trends

Did you know that The World Health Organization maintains an updated influenza map that shows Asia and Africa are at greater risk for a spread of the flu? Thanks to the advancements in GIS technologies, health organizations worldwide are using maps like these and mapping disease and sickness trends in an effort to treat them locally and globally.

Building a career is not something you do overnight. It is likened to preparing for a marathon. You lay the groundwork of skills, build strength and stamina through practice, and open paths for yourself by networking and showing initiative. keeps up-to-the-minute data-filled maps that cover water and health, influenza and malaria. One map keeps water-related infectious diseases in the WHO European Region, focusing on the visualization of pan-European and worldwide water-related disease data that comes from centralized information system for infectious diseases (CISID) database. The map covers HIV/AIDs, sexually transmitted diseases, Tuberculosis, Diphtheria and several other diseases.

Then there’s, which was founded in 2006 to use online sources to help with disease outbreak monitoring. Created by epidemiologists and software developers at Children’s Hospital Boston, the freely available Web site and mobile app ‘Outbreaks Near Me’ deliver real-time intelligence on a broad range of emerging infectious diseases for a diverse audience including libraries, local health departments, governments and international travelers.

HealthMap brings together disparate data sources, including online news aggregators, eyewitness reports, expert-curated discussions and validated official reports, to achieve a unified and comprehensive view of the current global state of infectious diseases and their effect on human and animal health. Through an automated process, updating 24/7/365, the system monitors, organizes, integrates, filters, visualizes and disseminates online information about emerging diseases in nine languages, facilitating early detection of global public health threats.

For example, recently released a report that several Massachusetts swans tested positive for low-path avian influenza or bird flu. Although the report indicated there is no threat to human health, this latest finding is just an example of how GIS can help save lives in the case of an outbreak.

“The real focus is identifying and focusing surveillance in hotspots around the world where we have potential for risk of a new disease that potentially might cause a pandemic worldwide,” said John Brownstein, co-founder of and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Maps are also tracking obesity and diabetes. CDC data and mapping indicates 644 counties in 15 states represent most of the country’s type two diabetes cases. This has been called the “Diabetes Belt,” which spans from Appalachia into the deep South. Data also shows that a few counties in Michigan also have higher rates, as well as some regions in the West.

Meanwhile, Esri has a GIS for Health & Human Services division that helps public health organizations and hospitals alike. Hospitals use ArcGIS for accurate and relevant patient information as well as for marketing, planning and community relations.

“We built the custom ArcGIS Server application using the Flex API to maximize accessibility and ease of use,” said Chris Walls, cofounder of 39°N, the firm that built the platform for UK. “We are extremely proud of this cutting-edge collaboration with the University of Kentucky. This kind of application will significantly streamline the administration of public facilities.”