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Application of GIS technology in public health: successes and challenges



The uptake and acceptance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology has increased since the early 1990s and public health applications are rapidly expanding. In this paper, we summarize the common uses of GIS technology in the public health sector, emphasizing applications related to mapping and understanding of parasitic diseases. We also present some of the success stories, and discuss the challenges that still prevent a full scope application of GIS technology in the public health context. Geographical analysis has allowed researchers to interlink health, population and environmental data, thus enabling them to evaluate and quantify relationships between health-related variables and environmental risk factors at different geographical scales. The ability to access, share and utilize satellite and remote-sensing data has made possible even wider understanding of disease processes and of their links to the environment, an important consideration in the study of parasitic diseases. For example, disease prevention and control strategies resulting from investigations conducted in a GIS environment have been applied in many areas, particularly in Africa. However, there remain several challenges to a more widespread use of GIS technology, such as: limited access to GIS infrastructure, inadequate technical and analytical skills, and uneven data availability. Opportunities exist for international collaboration to address these limitations through knowledge sharing and governance.


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* Corresponding author. South Western Sydney Local Health District, Public Health Unit, PO Box 38, Liverpool, NSW 1871, Australia. E-mail:


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Application of GIS technology in public health: successes and challenges



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