GIS in human health studies

Joseph E. Bunnell, Alexander W. Karlsen, Robert B. Finkelman, Timothy M. Shields

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Databases used in the field of medical geology are generally comprised of geospatial and/or temporal elements. Although these are not requirements for all medical geology research projects, much of the discussion in this chapter will be focused on databases incorporated into geographic information systems (GIS). GIS are computer-based (or manual) methods that allow a user to input, store, retrieve, manipulate, analyze, and output spatial data (Aronoff 1989). There are four major systems of GIS: engineering mapping systems (computer-aided design/computer-assisted mapping; CAD/CAM), geographic base file systems, image processing systems, and generalized thematic mapping systems. Various software packages are available that perform one or more of these systems, and the relative ability to move data back and forth between them can be critical to the needs and success of a particular GIS. Relational databases are the most commonly used types of databases in GIS (Cromley and McLafferty 2002). Relational database management models are convenient for linking formerly disparate databases together in a GIS. The databases to be joined must share one common attribute, usually an identifier such as coded patient number, sample site, or latitude/longitude. Other database management structures, such as hierarchical and network systems, are not as well suited to health GIS applications, although they may be useful for extremely large databases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEssentials of Medical Geology
Subtitle of host publicationRevised Edition
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9789400743755
ISBN (Print)9789400743748
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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