Putting Environmental Public Health Practice on the Map with Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Leah Rosenkrantz, PhD
National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health
Advances in geographic information systems (GIS) over the past few decades have supported innovative solutions to long-standing challenges in environmental public health (EPH) research and practice. Applications of GIS range from quantifying the public health impacts of wildfire smoke during wildfire season in Canada, to selecting the site of a new landfill to minimize both cost and health risk and ensure accessibility. Despite its potential utility, knowledge of GIS and its many applications vary among EPH researchers and practitioners. However, with the greater accessibility of desktop GIS technology in recent years and the proliferation of free-online resources, learning GIS has never been more affordable or user-friendly. The aim of this presentation is to highlight the many opportunities of GIS in EPH research and practice and help build the confidence of PHIs, EHOs, and EPH managers alike in applying GIS in the work they do. The presentation will begin with a brief primer on spatial data, spatial analytics, and mapmaking, before exploring three EPH practice-related examples. The first example will explore how GIS can be used to diagnose and investigate new and emerging EPH problems, such as identification of where new SARS-CoV-2 variants are emerging through wastewater surveillance. The second example will explore how GIS can inform and educate the public about EPH issues through interactive and dynamic maps. Finally, the third example will explore how restaurant inspections and related health protection regulations can be informed and optimized with GIS.