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Mapping Health Needs: GeoHealth Conference

What do mobile speed cameras, the spread of HIV, dementia and an outbreak of stomach bugs have in common? They’re just a few of the topics being discussed by leading international experts at the GeoHealth 2002 Conference being held at Victoria University.
The conference on the use of geographical information systems (GIS) in health has attracted more than 100 participants from 12 countries from Scandinavia, Britain, North America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It runs from December 3-5 at the University’s Kelburn campus and is a joint collaboration between the Ministry of Health’s Public Health Intelligence Group and Victoria’s School of Earth Sciences.
Conference co-ordinator, Dr Jan Rigby, a lecturer in geography at Victoria, said past conferences on GIS and health had tended to focus on and be organised around issues of concerns to researchers.
“We’ve attracted people from ‘both sides of the fence’. We’ve tried to create a focus for health decision-makers so they can better understand what GIS technology can offer and researchers can better understand the information decision-makers need.
“GIS can offer a lot to health decision-makers. For example, by mapping rates of cancer we can isolate differences and try to work out why there should be a variation. Deaths from colon cancers are often higher in rural areas – is this because of access to doctors or because people leave the problem until later and by then it is serious? Another use of GIS would be modelling pollutants in our water supplies and estimating whose health might be affected.”
Key speakers include:
§ New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi, who is opening the conference, and Deputy Director-General Dr Gillian Durham, who is speaking on health decision-making;
§ Dr Chuck Croner, from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control, on the challenges posed by GIS;
§ Professor Gerry Rushton from the University of Iowa, on the use of GIS in cancer control;
§ Professor Danny Dorling, from the University of Leeds, on the links between suicide and poverty.
§ Dr Stefano Lazzari, from the World Health Organisation, on future uses of GIS.
A full programme is available at: www.geohealth.org.nz/programme.html
To arrange interviews contact Dr Rigby on 04 463 6431 or email: Jan.Rigby@vuw.ac.nz
Issued by Victoria University of Wellington Public Affairs
For further information please contact Antony.Paltridge@vuw.ac.nz or phone +64-4-463-5873

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