Spring January 1996
Geographic information systems are powerful automated systems for the capture, storage, retrieval, analysis, and display of spatial data. While the systems have been in development for more than 20 years, recent software has made them substantially easier to use for those outside the field. The systems offer new and expanding opportunities for epidemiology because they allow an informed user to choose between options when geographic distributions are part of the problem. Even when used minimally, these systems allow a spatial perspective on disease. Used to their optimum level, as tools for analysis and decision making, they are indeed a new information management vehicle with a rich potential for public health and epidemiology.