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Geomatics in injury prevention: the science, the potential and the limitations

Abstract

Background: Geomatics describes the activities involved in acquiring and managing geographical data and producing geographical information for scientific, administrative and technical endeavors. As an emerging science, geomatics has a great potential to support public health. Geomatics provides a conceptual foundation for the development of geographic information systems (GIS), computerized tools that manage and display geographical data for analytical applications. As descriptive epidemiology typically involves the examination of person, place and time in the occurrence of disease or injury, geomatics and GIS can play an important role in understanding and preventing injury.

Aim: This article provides a background to geomatics for those in the injury prevention field who are unfamiliar with spatial analysis. We hope to stimulate researchers and practitioners to begin to use geomatics to assist in the prevention of injury.

Methods: The authors illustrate the potential benefits and limitations of geomatics in injury prevention in a non-technical way through the use of maps and analysis.

Results: By analysing the location of patients treated for fall injuries in Central Toronto using GIS, some demographic and land use variables, such as household income, age, and the location of homeless shelters, were identified as explanatory factors for the spatial distribution.

Conclusion: By supporting novel approaches to injury prevention, geomatics has a great potential for efforts to combat the burden of injury. Despite some limitations, those with an interest in injury prevention could benefit from this science.

  • GIS, geographic information systems
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