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GIS Experts Present on Disaster Relief and Recovery

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Committee of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (CASE), the Ohio Northern University Chapters of Phi Beta Delta International Forum, Gamma Theta Upsilon International Geography Honor Society, and the Department of History, Politics, and Justice sponsored a presentation and Q&A by geographers Andrew Curtis and Jacqueline W. Mills on the topic "GIS, Geospatial Technologies and Health: Updating John Snow" on Thursday, 28 January 2010, in the McIntosh Ballroom.

Andrew Curtis and Jacqueline W. Mills are health geographers currently teaching at the University of Southern California and the California State University at Long Beach respectively. Their interests center on the geography of health, with a particular emphasis on spatial analysis, GIS and geospatial technology. Both have worked extensively on a variety of health issues, including disaster assessment and recovery, the spread of diseases (H1N1, Influenza, Yellow Fever, HIV/AIDS, etc.), assessing and addressing health vulnerability, and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to help address these and other important topics. Before moving to California in 2007, Professor Curtis served as the Director of the World Health Organization's Collaborating Center for Remote Sensing and GIS for Public Health at Louisiana State University.

In 2005 after the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, Professors Curtis and Mills and the WHOCC lab helped with geospatial support for search and rescue operations in the Louisiana Emergency Operation Center. They continue to work on various Katrina recovery projects, and in 2007 was part of a team receiving the Meredith F. Burrill Award by the Association of American Geographers for the development of a Katrina-related GIS Clearinghouse Cooperative.

Curtis and Mills discussed how GIS had been used in the various disasters and traced the development of GIS and health crisis from John Snow’s early attempts to locate the source of an outbreak of foodpoising in London. They demonstrated how technology has transformed the tracking of helth crises, and how that technology aided in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Professor Curtis also discussed his research on the Yellow Fever outbreak in New Orleans in 1878 with faculty and students during a lunch session in the McIntosh center. During this talk he told the audience how historical contagions could be reconstructed from extant records and what conclusions could be drawn from the data. GIS can provide powerful tools for the historian as well as the geographer and can pose many interesting questions for both to attempt to answer with further research.