Medical geography

Features such as topography, climate and altitude are more commonly the province of geography than medicine, but their value is appreciated and epidemiologists are making more use of geographical tools to help them understand the distribution and spread of disease. The classic tool is the map and many examples will be found in several sections of this book where maps are used. A development of mapping is Geographical Information Systems (GIS) using the wealth of data collected by orbiting satellites. These map the surface of the world at frequent intervals so that comparisons can be made over time. Features known to be important in disease transmission, such as the distribution of populations or the breeding places of disease vectors can be identified from satellite images and predictions made without having to laboriously follow-up these features on the ground. Examples are the movement of people into the Amazon jungle where yellow fever is endemic and detailed study of a small area for mosquito-related features, such as rice-paddy, which can then be looked for in satellite images for the whole country. GIS is at the forefront of monitoring changes that are resulting from global climatic change.

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