a1 Honorary Research Officer, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
a2 Postgraduate Student, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, University College London, London, UK
a3 Senior Lecturer in Geoinformatics, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, University College London, London, UK
a4 Postgraduate Researcher, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
Aim The purpose of this paper is to review methods and tools for mapping, visualising and exploring geographic information to aid in primary health care (PHC) research and development.
Background Mapping and spatial analysis of indicators of locality health profiles and healthcare needs assessment are well-established facets of health services research and development. However, while there are a range of different methods and tools used for these purposes, non-specialists responsible for managing the use of such information systems may find knowing where to start and what can be done a relatively steep learning curve. In this review, health and sociodemographic datasets are used to illustrate some key methods, tools and organisational issues, and builds upon two recent reviews in this journal, respectively, focusing on geographic data sources and geographic concepts. Those familiar with mapping and spatial analysis should find this a useful review of current matters.
Method A thematic review is presented with illustrative case studies relevant to PHC. It begins with a section on visualising and interpreting geographic information. This is followed by a section critiquing analytical methods. Consideration is given to software and deployment issues in a third section. Content is based on domain knowledge of the authors as a team of geographic information scientists and a public health practitioner working in tandem, with its scope restricted to routine applications of mapping and analysis. Advanced techniques such as spatio-temporal modelling are not considered, neither are methodological technicalities, although guidance on further reading is provided.
Summary Geographical perspectives are now playing a significant role in PHC delivery, and for those engaged in informatics and/or managing population-level care, understanding key geographic information systems methods and terminologies are important as is gaining greater familiarity with institutional aspects of implementation.
(Received May 23 2011)
(Accepted August 07 2011)
(Online publication October 25 2011)
c1 Correspondence to: Edgar Samarasundera, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, Reynolds Building, St. Dunstan's Road, London W6 8RP, UK. Email: email@example.com