Geographic information systems: a new tool for environmental health assessments

Public Health Nurs. Sep-Oct 2006;23(5):381-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1446.2006.00577.x.


Objectives: (1) To develop tools for health care professionals and communities to assess environmental exposures and (2) to evaluate the utility of integrating patient-reported environmental health information with geographic information systems (GIS) mapping of environmental data in a pilot study.

Methods: A survey was used to collect self-reported environmental exposure and health data from a convenience sample of people at an urban community health center (N=101). Environmental exposure and census information were obtained from federal agencies. Analysis was performed using descriptive statistics and GIS.

Results: Frequent environmental health risk factors were reported, such as older housing (93%) and household smoking (78%). Health problems including asthma (54%) and lead poisoning (14%) were reported. Odds ratios indicated a statistically significant relationship between mold/mildew and reporting asthma. GIS was found to be a useful tool in displaying environmental risk factors and potentially associated health effects.

Conclusions: Given the important role that environmental health risks can play in public health, it is critical that community/public health nurses begin to integrate environmental health assessment skills into their professional practices. Simple community surveys can be an effective means to raise awareness about environmental health risk factors and utilizing GIS can further enhance the accessibility of the combined exposure and health information.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Baltimore / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Health / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems / organization & administration*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Lead Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Assessment / organization & administration
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Pilot Projects
  • Population Surveillance
  • Public Health Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires