Spring 2020 - HSCI 424 D100

Strategic Applications of GIS in Health (4)

Class Number: 2184

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We, Fr 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    BLU 11660, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    A minimum of 60 credits and HSCI 330 and one of STAT 302 or STAT 305.



The use of mapping strategies and geographic information systems in identifying disease patterns and health risks. The relation of health problems to the distribution of markers of exposure, susceptibility, and health impact, and resulting risk management strategies for intervention, mitigation, and disease prevention.


The goal of this course is to provide an introduction to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and its use in health research and public health practice.  

This course is designed to provide students with an overview of relevant theoretical aspects of health geography, mapping, and spatial analysis along with practical experience of using GIS software. Topics covered may include infectious disease surveillance, injury mapping, environmental justice, exposure assessment, environmental health, social determinants of health, and access to health resources. The course will draw on real world examples and employ public use datasets for assignments.

Two 2-hour sessions per week in the computer lab will be a combination of lecture, presentations, and hands on data analysis.

Some sessions of this course may be taught as CityStudio partner courses.


Students who fulfill all course requirements will be better prepared to:  

1. Explain the role of GIS-based techniques and approaches to analyzing and describing data representing a public health issues. Primary assessment: Labs, in class assignments, critical appraisal, final group assignments.

2. Critique the use of GIS as an approach to representing data, people, their health outcomes, and strengths and weaknesses in regards to issues such as confidentiality, bias, and temporality. Primary assessment: Critical appraisal assignment.

3. Work in teams to design and apply GIS techniques to complete a health research study using Canadian population health data. Primary assessment: Final group project.

4. Apply GIS techniques to build datasets, identify spatial patterns in health outcomes, and conduct exploratory analyses of risk factors, in the context of a lab. Primary assessment: Labs, in class assignments, and final group project.


  • In class exercises and contributions 10%
  • Critical appraisal of journal article 10%
  • Lab exercises 30%
  • Final project 50%


Attendance is compulsory to in order to complete assignments and acquire skills necessary for the final project. The computer laboratory is available outside of class hours (when another class is not in session) for independent work on the lab exercises and final project.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html