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The University of Southampton

GEOG6032 GIS for Analysis of Health (ODL)

Module Overview

This module is intended to introduce students who have already studied the principles of geographical information systems (GIS) how to utilise GIS tools in the analysis of health. The unit introduces the analysis of health, with a particular objective to show that many of the central concepts surrounding health and disease are in fact ambiguous and contested - they have different meanings to different groups of people and at different times. Academic study of the geography of health has traditionally been divided between two traditions - firstly concerned with the causes and spread of disease and secondly with the organisation and use of health care services. The methods and examples covered in this unit 'GIS for Analysis of Health' deal primarily with the first of these. GIS can play an important role in many aspects of health analysis, but should not be applied without recognition of contextual factors such as the interests of different agencies and the value-laden nature of standard definitions. Using a generalised model for the disease causation, the role of environmental, individual behavioural and predisposing factors on health effects are explored. Attention is given to international sources of data describing health events, and the role of GIS is introduced in five analytical areas: the direct mapping of health data; analysis of spatial clustering in health events; analysis of the spread of diseases; measuring and modelling exposure to risk factors and exploring inequalities in health outcomes. This course has been designed for blended learning delivery and comprises an extensive set of online learning objects, each of which has associated directed activities. Data files for GIS practicals are provided for students to download and work on locally.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To enable students to critically evaluate contemporary developments in health from a spatial analysis perspective. • To understand the use of GIS-based analyses of health alongside a range of complementary approaches to explanation and the implications for the results and interpretations presented. • To understand the issues involved in representing people, their health and potential explanatory factors as spatial objects in GIS. • To be able to discuss the relative roles of individual-level effects and area-level effects (or composition and context) in influencing patterns of health and the role that GIS can play in exploring these. • To be able be able to critically evaluate the evidence for and against causal relationships between health outcomes and environmental factors and to know how to use GIS tools to identify spatial patterns in health and to undertake an exploratory analysis of potential explanatory factors.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of selected parts of the subject that allow you to study the current literature and engage in discussion with peers – in relation to the spatial distribution of health and disease.
  • Critically analyse the literature relating to remote sensing and spatial analysis
  • Abstract and synthesise information from a range of different sources – in relation to sources of health, population and relevant environmental data
  • Use appropriate principles, theories and methods to design and undertake primary research within the subject area
  • Analyse and critically interpret primary and secondary data
  • Demonstrate knowledge of contemporary methods used to analyse remotely sensed imagery and other spatial data sets – in relation to the identification of spatial pattern in health data.
  • Carry out information processing (including IT skills): literature searches.
  • Pursue knowledge in an in-depth, ordered and motivated way.
  • Manipulate data (including IT skills): analyse data (especially spatial data); apply statistical methods
  • Communicate: oral and written presentation; scientific writing.
  • Manage: safe and effective project planning and execution; time management.
  • Conduct spatial data analysis – including patterns in point and area-based health data.
  • Learn and study independently


1 Definitions of health 2 Spatial aspects of health analysis 3 Spatial data source considerations for GIS 4 GIS for mapping health 5 GIS for analysing the spatial clustering of health events 6 GIS for analysing the spread of diseases 7 GIS for measuring and modelling exposure to risk factors

Special Features

This module has no special features beyond PC use and seminar attendance

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This module is taught wholly online. Students work through a structured series of online learning materials, each of which explores a topic and includes a learning activity. Activity types include literature searches, data exploration/calculation (using both web-based and pre-prepared datasets), reflection and short report-writing as well as GIS practical exercises. Students are encouraged to ask questions and share their results with the module tutor and each other through module discussion forums associated with each activity. Summative assessments are based on three major assignments embedded in the module materials.

Independent Study129
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Cromley, E.K. and McLafferty, S.L. (2012). GIS and Public Health. 

Other. All online materials for this module are provided through Blackboard, including links to online reference sources. Students will use ArcGIS and standard office software. ArcGIS is available off campus through iSolutions for installation on students’ own PCs, provided they are based in the UK.



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

The cost of the core textbook is not currently covered by the programme, though we have requested e-book copies via the library

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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