Geographic Information System (GIS) is a software tool used to Visualize, Question, Analyze and Interpret data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends.
Using GIS, researchers can visualize epidemiologic patterns, trace health behavior, and discover trends from the local community to international levels. Practitioners can use GIS to identify community needs and access to resources to propose support.
There are many free interactive online websites that support mapping. For practitioners, there are government and organization sites that you will have access to while in the field. This includes both U.S. and International data.
The most frequently used mapping tool is the America FactFinder (AFF). AFF allows you to access, download or map demographic data from the Decennial Census, the American Community Survey (sampling on an annual basis that is then aggregated)
This data may also be downloaded in a format used by GIS software, such as ArcGIS, This format is called "shapefiles".
This class will use AFF to find data, map that data, then download the shapefiles and use them in ArcGIS, Note that the ArcGIS software is available on the Social Work library.
The Census Department distributes data for various geographic areas up to the national level. Click on the link below to see a diagram which displays geographic areas from the smallest to the largest.
Census Geography Full Image