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Risk Communication and Public Health$
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Peter Bennett, Kenneth Calman, Sarah Curtis, and Denis Fischbacher-Smith

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199562848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562848.001.0001

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Geographical Information Systems as a Means for Communicating About Public Health

Geographical Information Systems as a Means for Communicating About Public Health

(p.279) Chapter 18 Geographical Information Systems as a Means for Communicating About Public Health
Risk Communication and Public Health

Christine E. Dunn

Oxford University Press

Recent years have witnessed an upsurge in interest in techniques for analysing spatially referenced data; not least in this expansion has been the development of geographical information systems (GIS). Some of the power of the technology of GIS lies in its ability to combine disparate types and sources of data, thereby allowing the user to explore and evaluate potential relationships between health outcomes and environmental risk factors. This chapter uses selective examples to illustrate the role which GIS can play in understanding and communicating about public health risks. It considers some of the specific opportunities which a GIS-based approach offers but it also addresses some of the inherent assumptions and limitations of spatial representations of risks to health. The chapter begins by outlining the meaning of the term ‘GIS’, before going on to discuss issues of data quality and the challenges of representing population risk exposure. A range of case studies is drawn upon in order to illustrate some of the capabilities of GIS for identifying and illustrating spatial patterns of risks to health, in ways that can inform experts charged with communication of public health risks. The discussion then goes on to outline ‘alternative’ forms of GIS that enable wider user-participation and which may be more directly applied to communication of risk to the public.

Keywords:   geographical information systems, public health, risk communication, health risks

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