Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Here you will find basic concepts of environmental sciences that help us understand the link between the environment and human health.

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Mapping Environmental Health → Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Environmental exposures lend themselves to mapping.  A new set of techniques referred to as Geographical Information Systems allows us to geo-code data, meaning to assign a geographic location to the data point. This, in turn, allows us to layer sets of data so that we can see exposures and outcomes that are geographically related. So, for instance, one can geo-code the location of children under the age of 5 in a community and map their distribution/location within the community. Then one could overlay a set of data that geographically identifies homes that were built before 1950. By looking at the combined data this way, a nurse could see where young children are at most risk for living in older housing stock. The nurse could then better determine where to use lead poisoning prevention resources.


GIS mapping can also be used to look at such combined data as air pollution and emergency visits for asthma or other disease outcomes; or water pollution and diarrheal diseases. GIS can be used for assessments, planning, evaluations, and research. The maps that are created are also useful tools to use in doing community education programs.

Resources for GIS

The US Geological Survey (USGS) provides a more in-depth review of GIS and as well as examples of how it can be used to analyze data: Geographic Information Systems

The Public Health Mapping and GIS Programme was originally developed by WHO and UNICEF in 1993 to boost efforts to eradicate guinea worm disease, which affects the isolated, rural poor, through the use of GIS. Since then the use of GIS and mapping have been greatly simplified and expanded to meet the distinct data needs of several disease control initiatives. Learn more about the Public Health Mapping and GIS Programme as well as links to tools and resources on GIS.

Stanford University has developed a listing of GIS resources and tools available on the web. This list can be found here.



Last updated 1237 days ago by Katie Huffling