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TODAY news for Thursday, December 14, 2006

School of Public Health news

School of Public Health staff teach area children about GIS

Loma Linda Academy students participate in an exercise designed to teach them about GIS.
Loma Linda Academy students participate in an exercise designed to teach them about GIS.
Maps ruled the day on November 15, 2006—GIS Day.

Discard the image of coffee-stained road maps that no one knows how to fold. As schoolchildren learned that day, maps have advanced. Because of GIS (geographic information systems) technology, maps are actually now able to save lives.

“Maps are cool,” sums up Madison Wilson, a fourth-grader from Loma Linda Academy.

She was one of more than 200 people who visited LLU’s health geoinformatics laboratory on November 15 to learn about GIS. Like Madison, most of the visitors were grade-school students from Loma Linda Academy, as well as Redlands Adventist Academy, grades second through ninth.

LLU’s geoinformatics staff planned age-appropriate, interactive projects for the various age groups to learn about GIS. The kids also received gifts donated by  organizations, such as ESRI, a Redlands-based company that is one of the sponsors of international GIS Day.

“We thoroughly enjoyed the well-organized activities and presentation,” says fourth-grade teacher Christina Walters.

Loma Linda University’s GIS staff, led by Seth Wiafe, MPH, are excited about spreading the word about GIS to kids.

Loma Linda Academy fourth-graders collaborate on a map project.
Loma Linda Academy fourth-graders collaborate on a map project.
quo;We believe the use of GIS is changing our world in many ways, and introducing GIS to kids at an early age will create an awareness of this technology’s usefulness for their own lives,” says Mr. Wiafe.

LLU has been hosting GIS Day on campus for about eight years. This year, the staff noticed that the children have a more advanced understanding of GIS than in years past. They have been exposed to its use through traffic and weather reports on television, global positioning system (GPS) in vehicles, and driving directions on the Internet. LLU wants to broaden even further their understanding of GIS’s uses.

“The most important thing we taught them was to think outside the box and expand their knowledge of GIS to other application areas, such as health care or business administration,” Mr. Wiafe says.

The health utilization of GIS is where LLU’s interest lies. Applied to health care, GIS technology forms the field of health geoinformatics. This discipline investigates health situations using traditional medical geography plus GIS technology to gather, integrate, analyze, and spatially relate data on disease and health systems.

GIS users in more than 80 countries hold local GIS Day celebrations, showcasing the technology’s various uses through formats such as open houses, hands-on workshops, community expos, and school assemblies.

In 2007, international GIS Day is scheduled for November 14. For more information, visit <www.gisday.com>.

By Heather Reifsnyder

TODAY news for Thursday, December 14, 2006