Snowed under: geospatial data literacy for health students
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Objectives: To integrate geospatial literacy into graduate level public health library instruction in order to develop data and information visualization skills. Methods: The ability to represent large and complex data as easily understandable “infographics” contributes to the rising popularity of information visualization technology and its increasing utilization in academic research. Geographic information systems (GIS) and geospatial data are being leveraged for research in health sciences including; disease prevention, healthcare delivery, social determinants of health, epidemiology, health promotion and for multivariate analysis of health outcomes. As part of their embedded information literacy curriculum, in the 2015 Fall Term, 35 Master of Public Health students were introduced to the use of geospatial data in public health. The session included examples of health-specific information visualizations,and how to discover, access, and use open and licensed data. Students were also introduced to Library GIS software and training opportunities. Results: Although some struggled with the identification and description of tools, students demonstrated a clear understanding of how geospatial data can be leveraged to address public health issues. Conclusions: Instruction on geospatial data, tools and data visualizations is a good fit in public health and has broad potential in health sciences education.