World Diabetes Day: How GIS Can Enhance Awareness and Action

World Diabetes Day, launched in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation, is observed every November 14 to raise global awareness of diabetes and the issues surrounding its treatment and prevention.

Geography can play an important role in diabetes awareness, prevention, and care coordination. In fact, geography is uniquely able to address the complexity of environmental and behavioral factors impacting the management of this chronic disease. In raising awareness of the issues surrounding diabetes and ways to combat it on World Diabetes Day, it is only natural to begin with understanding the geographic burden of this disease. Given the patterns and trends that a GIS can illuminate, the next steps involve assisting in identifying root causes, planning geographically targeted interventions, and engaging with patients and stakeholders.

Diabetes is a complex disease with risk factors that range from obesity and high blood pressure to sedentary lifestyle and high fat and carbohydrate diets. The choices that people make that increase their risk for diabetes often result from the built environments in which they live, work, learn, and play. Understanding the root causes of diabetes means understanding environmental and behavioral information within a community. Obesity, a frequent precursor of diabetes, may be seen in neighborhoods with high concentrations of fast food restaurants and few or no stores selling healthy groceries. Knowing where specific risk factors are present provides valuable insight for effectively pinpointing the places where resources and education are needed most. For instance, GIS can identify locations that provide diabetes education, pharmacy locations, and sharps drop off points.

Esri’s interactive Story Maps offer an engaging way to spread awareness about diabetes, its risk factors, treatment, and prevention opportunities. One Story Map we created shows the link between national obesity rates in the United States and diabetes. Another Story Map, developed by Direct Relief with the National Association of Community Health Centers, shows the innovations in care related to diabetes.

About Este Geraghty

Dr. Geraghty is Esri's Chief Medical Officer and Health Solutions Director where she leads the health and human services team, focusing on the improvement of health though strategic use of geographic information systems. Dr. Geraghty's prior roles include Deputy Director of the Center for Health Statistics and Informatics with the California Department of Public Health, and Associate Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of California at Davis. She earned her MD, Master's in Medical Informatics and Masters of Public Health degrees at UC Davis. She is board certified in internal medicine and public health and is a Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP).
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