What is health geography?

Health geography is related to medical geography, but is much more. It should be obvious that GIS can play a major role in several areas of health geography. However, similarly, it should also be obvious that the use of technologies such as GIS must always be tempered by a critical social and cultural perspective on the issue.

A description of health geography prepared by Jamie Baxter (formerly at the University of Calgary, but now at UWO) for his old UC course on health geography is presented below. I've also included some references on health geography and related topics collected by him below:

There are three main themes in the geography of health care (or medical geography): disease ecology, health care delivery, and environment and health.  Disease ecology involves the study of infectious diseases (e.g., malaria, HIV/AIDS, infant diarrhea) including the spatial distributions of meteorological, biological and cultural phenomena associated with disease, as well as the social, political and economic barriers to positive change.  The study of health care delivery includes spatial patterns of health care provision and patient behaviour and includes issues like inequalities in health (health status and accessibility), and de-institutionalisation of the mentally ill. Environment and health is a relatively new focus for health geographers that draws geography's long tradition in environmental hazards research together with health geography. Topics within this new tradition include environmental risk assessment, as well as the physical and psychosocial health impacts of environmental contamination.

Health inequality is one of the central concerns of health geographers, as illustrated in this paper on Multilevel analysis of the geography of health inequalities: Using better geographies by Richard Mitchell, Simon Gleave and Mel Bartley.

ESRI's ArcUSER Online magazine has an article on Health Geography. About.com also has a page on medical geography with some interesting links. Additional links: Institute for Health and the Environment, Albany; BC Wellness Atlas.

The US CDC published a comprehensive first look at health disparities and inequalities (by race and income).

Some references (PDFs) used in my lecture:

Some interesting links:

  • What is medical geography? (A review of some of the literature.)
  • Courses on health geography-related topics (e.g., spatial epidemiology, GIS & epidemiology) that are offered in the professional specialization certificate in population health data analysis.
  • An interesting blog that covers historical medical geography as well as public health and GIS.
  • An article on the link between lead and crime. I highly recommend that you read this article.
Overheads: Here



Eyles, J. and Woods, K. (1983) The Social Geography of Medicine and Health, London: Croom Helm, chapter 1.

Jones, K. and Moon, G. (1987) Health Disease and Society, London: RKP, chapter 1.

Kearns, R. (1993) Place and health, Professional Geographer, 45, 139-47.

Meade, M. and Earickson, R., (2001) Medical Geography, Second Edition, New York: Guilford Press, chapter 1.

Rosenberg, Mark , 2015. Health geography II ‘Dividing’ health geography, Progress in Human Geography

Health Care Systems

Curtis, S., and Taket, A. (1996) Health and Societies, London: Arnold, chapter 5.

Evans, R.G. (1994) Introduction. In: Evans, R.G., et al. (eds). Why Are Some People Healthy and Others Not?  New York: Aldine DeGruyter.

McKeown, T. (1979)  The Role of Medicine: Dream, Mirage or Nemesis. 2nd. edition. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Bunker, J.P. Frazier, H.S. Mosteller, F. (1994) Improving health: measuring effects of medical care. Milbank Quarterly, 72(2):225-58.

Vayda, E. and Deber, R. (1992) The Canadian health-care system: A developmental overview, in Naylor, D. (Ed.) Canadian Health Care and the State: A Century of Evolution, Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, pp. 125-140.

Models and Methods

Dunn, J. R. and Hayes, M.V. (1999).  Toward a  lexicon of population health. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 90(S1): S7-S10.

Eisenberg, L. (1977)  Disease and illness:  Distinctions between professional and popular ideas of sickness, Culture Medicine and Psychiatry, 1:  9-23.

Evans, R. and Stoddart, G. (1994) Producing health, consuming health care, in Evans, R., Barer, M. and Marmor, T. (Eds.)  Why Are Some People Are Health and Others are Not.

Eyles, J. and Donovan, J. (1986) Making sense of sickness and care. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers, 11, 415-427.

Eyles, J. and Donovan, J. (1990)  The Social Effects of Health Policy, Aldershot:  Gower. Chapter 2

Frank, J. W. (1995). "Why "Population Health"?" Canadian Journal of Public Health 86(3): 162-164. (B)

Jones, K. and Moon, G. (1987) Health Disease and Society, London: RKP, chapter 3.

Mazankowski Report (2002) Health Care in Alberta.

Romano Report (2002) - CBC site  (or here) The Future of Health Care in Canada.

White, N. F. (1981). Modern health concepts. The Health Conundrum. N. F. White. Toronto, T.V Ontario Publications.

Rootman, I. and J. Raeburn (1994). The concept of health. Health Promotion in Canada: Provincial, National and International Perspectives. A. Pederson, Michael O' Neill and Irving Rootman. Toronto, W.B Saunders.

Communicable Diseases

Gould, P. (1993) The Slow Plague: A Geography of the AIDS Pandemic, Oxford: Blackwell, Chapters 6-9

Jones, K. and Moon, G. (1987) Health Disease and Society, London: RKP, chapter 4.

Meade, M. et al., (1988) Medical Geography, New York: Guilford Press, chapter 8.

Behavioural Perspectives

Bertrand, W. and Walmus, B. (1983) Maternal knowledge, attitudes, and practice as predictors of diarrhoeal disease in young children, International Journal of Epidemiology, 12(2),: 205-10

Blaxter, M. (1990) Health and Lifestyles, London: Tavistock/Routledge, chapters 8 and 9.

Calkins, B. (1987) Lifestyle and chronic disease in western society, in Greenberg, M. (Ed.) Public Health and the Environment, New York: Guilford Press, 25-75.

Health and Welfare Canada (1986) Achieving Health for All, Ottawa: Ministry of Supply and Services.

Manson-Singer, S., et al. 1996. South Asian Immigrants’ risk factors for HIV transmission. In International Conference on AIDS 11(1):413, Vancouver, Canada.

Taylor, S.M., Frank, J., White, N., and Myers, J. (1986) Modelling the incidence of childhood diarrhea, Social Science and Medicine, 23(10), pp. 995-1002.

Social Perspectives

Inequalities in Health

Jones, K. and Moon, G. (1987) Health Disease and Society, London: RKP, chapter 7.

Joseph, A. and Philips, D. (1984) Accessibility and Utilization: Geographical Perspectives on Health Care Delivery, New York: Harper and Row, chapter, 8.

Liaw, K. et al. (1989) Intra urban mortality variation and income disparity, Canadian Geographer, 33, 131-45.

Lynch, J.W., et al.(need names) (2000). Income inequality and mortality: importance to health of individual income, psychosocial environment, or material conditions. British Medical Journal, 320(7243):1200-4. (C)

Macintyre, S., Maciver, S., and Sooman, A. (1993) Area, class and health: Should we be focusing on places or people? Journal of Social Policy, 22(2): 213-234.

Renaud, M. (1994) The future: Hygeia versus Panakeia?, in Evans, R., Barer, M. and Marmor, T. (Eds.)  Why Are Some People Healthy and Others Not, chapter 12.

Rose, G. (1985) Sick individuals and sick populations. International Journal of Epidemiology 14(1): 32-38.

Ross, N.A., Wolfson, M.W., Dunn, J.R., Berthelot, J-M., Kaplan, G., and Lynch, J.W. (2000).  Income inequality and mortality in Canada and the United States.  British Medical Journal, 320(7239): 898-902.

Townsend, P. and Davidson, N. (1982) Inequalities in Health, Harmondsworth (UK): Penguin, chapters 2,3.

Wilkins, R. et al. (1990) Changes in mortality by income in urban Canada, Health Reports, 137-74.

Political Perspectives

Davies, J. and Kelly, M. (1993) Healthy Cities: Research and Practice, London: Routledge, chapters 2, 10, 11.

Hastings, J. and Vayda E. (1986) Health service organization and delivery, promise and reality, in Evans, R. and Stoddart, G (Eds.) Medicare at Maturity, Calgary: University of Calgary Press.

Taylor, S.M. (1990) Geographic perspectives on national health challenges, Canadian Geographer, 34, 332-40.

Environmental Perspectives

Elliott, S. (1993) Modelling psychosocial effects of exposure to solid waste facilities, Social Science and Medicine, 37, 791-805.

Griffith, D., Doyle, P., Wheeler, D. and Johnson, D. (1998) A tale of two swaths: Urban childhood blood-lead levels across Syracuse, New York, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 88(4) 640-665.

Howe, M. (1992) Man, Environment and Disease in Britain, Harmondsworth (UK): Penguin, chapter 11.

McKeown, T. (1979)  The Role of Medicine: Dream, Mirage or Nemesis. 2nd. edition. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 29-113.

Critical Perspectives and Future Health Geography

Jones, K. and Moon, G. (1987) Health Disease and Society, London: RKP, chapter 9.