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Using GIS to Map Illnesses

Using GIS to Map Illnesses

healthThere is no doubt that mental health illness today is a serious, debilitating disease.  It can be difficult to cure because trying to ascertain the root causes of it can take a long time. The only known tools to fight mental illness which has seemed to work thus far are those of psychiatric medications and extensive psychological counseling.

But, now the principles of GIS may now be called upon to help combat mental illness.  Specialists are now trying to use specifically created software packages in an attempt to map those geographic locations where the trends of mental illness appear to be high.

It is hoped that by targeting these specific locations, the right kind of help can be sought.  For example, this could be any of the following:

  • Preventative based services;
  • The establishment of more treatment centers;
  • The launching of community awareness programs;
  • Determining the types and kinds of therapeutic specialists which are needed.

But apart from this, GIS professionals are also looking at whether or not gene-environment interactions have a strong impact on the mental well-being of an individual.  This is also known specifically as the “nature-nurture” issue, and GIS would be used to help determine the locations upon which to focus on first to examine this; as well as providing the means to conduct complex data analysis.

GIS professionals are also examining the relationship between physical health and mental health.  They are trying to examine the causal relationships between them, by focusing on the geography of drug usage.  A key example of this is the current research which is being conducted upon the usage of opioids in the state of Kentucky.

Under this, visual maps are being created to ascertain the locations of treatment services and mental health centers. The goal here is to establish the locations of treatment centers, hospitals, mental health professionals, community outreach as well as the patients in need.

Although the principles of GIS still has a long way to go in order to reach the level of counseling and medical drugs, its impact is being felt for sure in the psychiatric world.

GeoTel is a telecommunications research and GIS mapping firm that researches and provides telecom datasets for more than 6,000 cities in the United States and worldwide. GeoTel’s expertise includes specialists in economic geography, geospatial engineering, web GIS, and telecommunications GIS Data infrastructure.

Valerie Stephen