PHDA 03 - Population Health and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

"The growing importance of spatial thinking in health policy and epidemiology underscores the immense value of this course for researchers and practitioners alike. As a frequent user of GIS, I found this course to be an indispensable update to both my technical skills and theoretical understanding of health geography and spatial data analysis..."
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Blake Walker, PhD student, Geography


Next course delivery:  January to April, 2017
This course is now available to individuals residing outside of Canada. Please contact Program Coordinator, Maxine Reitsma at or 250-721-8481 for more information.

Course description

In this course, students will learn about:

  • the geographic nature of population and public health
  • how geographic data are incorporated into health research
  • key considerations in spatial analysis
  • the applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to health research and population and public health

Throughout the course, students will gain hands-on experience working with a wide range of spatial data and analysis methods using ArcGIS.


Learning objectives

  • Identify the importance of the geographic nature of population health.
  • Explain basic concepts of spatial data as they apply to health data and population health applications.
  • Identify major uses of GIS in population health.
  • Use GIS to map health data.
  • Apply a number of spatial techniques to analyze health data.
  • Critically interpret spatial approaches and methodology in population health.


Admission to the PSC in Population Health Data Analysis or permission of the Faculty Advisor.


Instructor: Alejandro Cervantes

Alejandro Cervantes is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia, and currently works as the Manager for GIS and data Services at UBC’s Campus Planning. For his PhD dissertation, Alejandro examines historical voting patterns at various scales and relates these patterns to different contextual and compositional variables. Alejandro has extensive experience in GIS, remote sensing and spatial analysis for modeling exposure to environmental pollutants in outdoor air. He has collaborated in the past with various academic projects where he has applied geographic analysis for studying health determinants and health outcomes. He has also taught GIS undergraduate courses at the University of British Columbia and has facilitated workshops on applications of GIS to health research.


This course is offered in partnership with the Division of Continuing Studies and Department of Geography at the University of Victoria.


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Page last revised: October 19, 2016