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The University of Southampton

GEOG6094 GIS for Analysis of Health

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. During this module, students will have the opportunity to particularly develop four of the six Graduate Attributes identified by the University of Southampton: Research and Inquiry Research and Inquiry underpin the formulation of well-informed new ideas and a creative approach to problem resolution and entrepreneurial behaviours Academic Academic attributes are the tools that sustain an independent capacity to critically understand a discipline and apply knowledge Communication Skills Communication Skills encompass an individual’s ability to demonstrate knowledge, and to express ideas with confidence and clarity to a variety of audiences Reflective Learner The Reflective Learner is capable of the independent reflection necessary to develop their learning and continuously meet the challenge of pursuing excellence.

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:

  • Gain 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
  • Use appropriate principles, theories and methods to design and undertake primary research within the subject area
  • Gain 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
  • Conduct spatial data analysis – including patterns in point and area-based health data manipulation (including IT skills):
  • Analyse and critically interpret primary and secondary data (especially spatial data); statistical methods
  • 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
  • Pursue knowledge in an in-depth, ordered and motivated way
  • Communicate: oral and written presentation; scientific writing
  • Conduct information processing (including IT skills): literature searches
  • Manage: safe and effective project planning and execution; time management


Topics are likely to include: - Concepts and definitions of health - Spatial aspects of health analysis - Public health data systems - Geovisualisation of health data - Spatial cluster detection - GIS and infectious diseases - GIS and diseases of exposure

Special Features

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

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning methods include a blend of online learning materials which students work through in their own time (under a suggested timetable), supporting tutorials, practical and clinic sessions, and independent study.

Independent Study125
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Online Materials. 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 on-campus or available through iSolutions for installation on students’ own PCs. Selected, optional use will be made of other freely available software packages.



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 33%
Coursework 33%
Coursework 34%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: GEOG6061

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