Geo-medicine: Mapping our pollution exposures

My latest post on The Atlantic’s Cities website explores geo-medicine, a new field that uses GIS mapping to correlate environmental conditions to health risks like heart attacks and cancer. There’s even a free app that allows you to map the types of toxic exposures in everyplace you’ve ever lived and correlate them to the likelihood of developing cancer or dying of a heart attack.

Beyond charting the potential for your own personal doomsday, however, geo-medicine has many other applications: It can allow doctors to zoom in on a patient’s life to create a geographically enhanced medical history. Or it can zoom out to give public health officials, city planners and activists detail-rich insights on how to improve the well-being of entire communities.

Check out my story and let me know what you think!


About greendistrict

I'm Christine MacDonald, a journalist and the author of the book: "Green, Inc., An Environmental Insider Reveals How a Good Cause Has Gone B

Posted on May 24, 2012, in Environment, Geo-medicine, health, pollution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Hi Christine, love the piece. For a long time I have been interested in using GIS to tract trends- you know as a reporters tool. To provide various kinds of information for journalists in the region. Let me know if there are any such sites that you know of.

    • Thanks, Zadie! I also think GIS mapping can be very useful for reporting though I’m just getting acquainted with what’s out there. I’ll drop you a line if I find any new + interesting sites. Meanwhile, you might want to check out the one Maggie May suggested. I’m going to.

  2. Do you have an interest in mapping and digital mapping? Well if so can I suggest that you visit, the have a huge range of different types of OS maps with the ability to add digital information in the form of overlays.

  3. Wow, this is a great use of GIS mapping to illustrate exposure to pollution.

    • @Geo-Tel: Definitely. And the EPA is working with software developers to develop a new wearable sensor that can both measure pollutants in the air around you and measure your heart rate and other vital signs. The agency issued a developers challenge at a tech conference a few months ago. I think the results should be announced before the end of the year. It could be another interesting way to map exposures and measure risks.

  4. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to
    be really something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try
    to get the hang of it!

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