Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial statistics are powerful tools for SBCC researchers and program implementers. These tools are increasingly used in all areas of public health to help address both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
GIS is a term with several definitions. Some define GIS as the software itself, some talk of GIS as including the software, the user, and all processes involved. GIS can also refer to utilizing geography to inform data and information, and shed new light on issues; it is a specific and specialized set of tools and skills. There is no one consensus definition. GIS is NOT, however, simply “map making”. One major misconception is that GIS is used only for making maps, though of course, map outputs can provide new perspectives by looking at things from another angle.
GIS encompasses a whole suite of tools and skill sets. GIS is the use of specialized software-based tools for displaying and analyzing spatial data. This includes making maps, but also includes spatial statistics and analysis, predictive modeling, cluster detection, and more.
Despite the enormous potential of GIS applications in public health, and specifically, SBCC campaigns, it remains underutilized. This may be due to the fact that it is as yet not very user-friendly, and the best software is expensive. Free software is available, but lacks the more sophisticated capabilities, and must be run in tandem with statistical softwares that can handle spatial data. Because resources are limited, the Health COMpass is pleased to offer in this Trending Topic some basic learning tools and several examples of how GIS can be applied to social and behavior change communication program analysis.
As always, if you have any suggestions or materials to offer, we welcome them. Please write to email@example.com.
Since resources on this topic are limited, the Health COMpass team offers links to several books which have been recommended by experts:
- Applied Spatial Statistics for Public Health Data
- GIS and Public Health
- ESRI Giude to GIS Analysis, Vol. 1
- GIS Tutorial for Health, 5th ed.
Banner Image: In the Nakosongola District of Uganda, a community-based distribution agent (CBDA), surrounded by some of her neighbors who use family planning, holds up a map of her village that indicates where couples are using family planning. Her community is remote and access to family planning methods, of which Depo-Provera is the most popular, is limited. Save the Children in Uganda piloted the distribution of Depo-Provera by CBDAs, and found that CBDAs can administer the injection safely. © 2007 Virginia Lamprecht, Courtesy of Photoshare