Apocalypse Where: GIS in the Service of Population Health

"Apocalypse where?  Utility of GIS in understanding and enabling prevention in a population context"


Geographic information systems (GIS) can aid the identification of environmental conditions that shape population risks, morbidity and mortality.  Geospatial analysis is the sine qua non for seeing lifestyles as the intersection of environments and behaviour.  GIS remains, however, underused in prevention science and policy decisions.  This presentation will cover (i) the application of GIS to non-communicable population health problems, (ii) discriminate risk conditions from risk factors and (iii) environmental context from composition, and (iv) illustrate built and social environmental associations vs. aetiological research on ecological mechanisms of environmental effects.  Practical considerations in the development of an Australian GIS infrastructure will be covered, drawing a prototype originally developed and integrated into the public health service in Montreal, Canada.


Mark earned a doctorate in Health Care & Epidemiology at the University of British Columbia and was exposed to Australia as an MRC Canada Postdoctoral Fellow in Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.  He has since held faculty appointments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Université de Montréal (Canada Research Chair in Population Health).  He returned to Australia in 2008, joining the University of South Australia as Research S.A. Chair: Social Epidemiology, and then the University of Canberra in 2017.  He has authored 178 refereed articles and 21 book chapters.  He has been a chief investigator on 91 grants in excess of $67.5 M, from the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada Foundation for Innovation, National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia, and Australian Research Council.  He has led 30 grant-funded projects.

Mark’s research aims to identify the drivers and multi-sectoral levers for policy and practice-level intervention to reduce risk factors and slow rising rates of chronic diseases and other population health problems.  For 18 years he has utilised geographic information systems in spatial analyses of social and built environmental conditions, lifestyle risks, biochemical markers and cardiometabolic diseases, mental health disorders, adverse birth outcomes, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and mortality.  Most of this work aims at knowledge translation for improved disease prevention via partnerships with stakeholders including community leaders, health professionals, and policy makers.