Module 233: Geographic Information System and Environmental Health


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been absolutely fundamental in revealing patterns of inequalities in environmental exposures and mapping them. Many advances (GPS, remote sensing, open geographic data…) that have occurred in the past 20 years have helped us to better understand the spatial and temporal dimensions of exposures that are either harmful or beneficial for people’s health.

Students will learn how to apply GIS principles and tools to create maps and conduct basic spatial analysis investigations in environmental health. Using GoogleMaps, QGIS and a range of online geographic and environmental databases, students will learn how to create and manage spatial information. The module will introduce the best practices regarding cartographic principles and manipulation of vector and raster layers to create powerful maps and visualizations. Students will learn how to interpret and communicate results based on maps. Finally, basic spatial analysis tools (buffers, kriging, distance and density measures) will be introduced to the audience. While course’s materials will be based on environmental health cases (i.e. planetary health), the methods and tools covered can be applied to other areas (i.e. health services research). This module, while being open to any student, is a required introduction to the module 231 on Spatial Statistical Analysis (ISB Track).

Learning Objectives

At the end of the module, the students should be able to:

  • Investigate a public health issue using geographic information and spatial analysis
  • Create and manage geographic information
  • Design, create and interpret maps as well as basic spatial analysis results


Cromley, E., McLafferty S. (2011) GIS and Public Health, Guilford Press