Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Epidemiology (HGEO101)

Course content

GIS are computer information platforms designed to collect, manage, and store spatial and non-spatial data, as well as combine data sources to help describe the world around us. In research into human health and wellness, GIS provide important clues as to how to approach disease etiology. This might include mapping or predicting disease diffusion across the landscape, determining levels of access to health care resources, or assessing community variations in various health outcomes.

This FREE online course has two key objectives:

  • To outline a number of areas where GIS have been used to increase our understanding of health conditions. Examples will be taken from both an international and Canadian context, particularly research in BC.
  • To provide numerous examples of how to consider using GIS in your own research, what you need to know in order to link registry data with spatial identifiers as well as what you might do with the data after it has been linked.

The training will cover the following:

  • Introduction to GIS platforms
  • Components of GIS and spatial data
  • Mapping health data using GIS
  • Information sources and data structures

Course format

The course has been redesigned from its original inception as a face-to-face workshop to broaden knowledge mobilization in this subject area. Course delivery includes voiceover Power Point information  with associated reference guides, web links and online tutorials using sample datasets accessed through Population Data BC’s Remote Training Lab (RTL).

Training time

The self paced course is divided into 4 modules, followed by 2 data analysis tutorials. Each module can be reviewed in approximately 10 to 25 minutes with a total training time of approximately 1 hr and 30 minutes. The 2 tutorials, that use the Remote Training Lab, can be completed within an hour – depending on individual skill level.

You may wish to complete the modules all together or as separate training sessions over a period of several days or weeks to best fit your schedule or learning preferences.

Access fee

Access to this guide is free. Go to: and, if you do not already have a my.popdata account you will need to sign up and create one.

Once you have a my.popdata account, go to the Education & Training section of the my.popdata site at You can then login in with your PopData account username and passphrase and self-enroll to access the guide/course.

Course presenter

Nathaniel Bell has a PhD In Geography from Simon Fraser University. He is currently a post doctoral research fellow with the Department of Surgery and holds a joint appointment with C2E2 and the Division of Trauma Services at Vancouver General Hospital. His research interests include trauma systems optimization, the use of geographic information science for health-related research, and the application of linked health and administrative databases.

The video below provides a course overview.