Book Brings Geographic, Spatial Dynamics Data Into Disease Planning

When the threat of disease looms, analyzing its geographic and spatial dynamics might not spring to mind as a priority. However, a new book co-edited by UNC Charlotte researcher Eric Delmelle suggests that such analysis should move up the list of significant issues to consider.

Spatial Analysis in Health Geography, published by Ashgate, provides the latest methods in Geographic Information Science and Systems, and discusses their implications in the health field. For epidemiologists, and for the management and administration of health care settings in today’s globally connected world, the book suggests it is critical to understand the spatial dynamics of disease.

“It is crucial that hospital administrators develop an understanding of the flow of patients over time, especially during an outbreak of a particular disease, so they can plan for appropriate levels of staffing and to carry out adaptive prevention measures,” said Delmelle, a faculty member in the Department of Geography & Earth Sciences. “Understanding where and why a disease occurs at a certain geographic location is vital for decision makers to formulate policy and increase accessibility to health services, either by prevention or by adding new facilities.”

Health geography relies increasingly on new methodologies, such as clustering algorithms, visualization and space-time modeling, the domain of Geographic Information Science, he said.

One of the most rewarding aspects of editing the book was attracting experts in the field to write on different topics, he said. Health geography professionals wrote the book chapters, which cover topics such as exposure, chronic disease, infectious disease, accessibility to health care settings and new methods in Geographical Information Science and Systems. Delmelle’s co-editors are Pavlos Kanaroglou, and Antonio Páez, both of McMaster University, Canada.

The book will be used as illustrative case studies for the course ‘Medical Geography.’ This course at UNC Charlotte is cross-listed between the Department of Geography & Earth Sciences and the Department of Public Health Sciences.

Delmelle continues his research in the areas of epidemiology, uncertainty optimization and geo-visualization.

“My research focuses on answering fundamental epidemiological questions where spatial and spatio-temporal methodology are critical,” he said. “The goal is to develop new, robust geo-computational methodologies that deepen our understanding on the dynamics of infectious and non-infectious diseases.”

Words: Tyler Harris