DHMH Office of Information Technology
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Jim Thomas, Director
The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) unit was established in August 2001 at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). The primary objective of the unit is to increase GIS capacity of DHMH and to provide GIS services to DHMH staff. Within a short period of time, the GIS unit has achieved many of its long-term goals. The unit has established a centralized GIS system including data, software, hardware, and personnel at DHMH.
GIS is used in public health for research, surveillance, intervention, and planning. “The ability of GIS to ‘overlay’ different entities based on their common geographic occurrence makes it a very valuable tool in epidemiological research.” (GIS in Health, UNICEF 2005)
It is being used for the following by Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other national, state, local, and international health organizations:
Disease surveillance e.g. West Nile Virus
Needs Assessment e.g. Distribution of vaccines
Planning - evaluate health education and marketing programs, evaluate prospective sites for hospital or outpatient clinics, make site decisions, etc.
Research - understand effect of environmental factors and other toxic substances on health e.g. relationship between air pollution and asthma
Improve analytical procedures and delivery of public services
Generate a new ‘understanding’ of and easier access to public health data.
The unit has increased DHMH’s capacity to geocode, analyze, and publish health data in a GIS hence making it possible for personnel to use a Geographic Information System as an analytical tool to make decisions to assess health problems. The GIS unit maintains confidentiality of data and is cost efficient.
The GIS unit is: