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The global cost of communicable diseases is expected to rise. SARS has put the world on alert. We have now Avian Flu on the watch. Recognizing the global nature of threats posed by new and re-emerging infectious diseases and the fact that many recent occurrences originated in the Asia Pacific regions, there has been an increased interest in learning and knowing about disease surveillance and monitoring progresses made in these regions. Such knowledge and awareness is necessary to reduce conflict, discomfort, tension and uneasiness in future negotiations and global cooperation. Many people are talking about the GIS and public and environmental health. The way we make public policies on health and environmental matters is changing, and there is little doubt that GIS provides powerful tools for visualizing and linking data in public health surveillance. This book is a result of the International Conference in GIS and Health held on 27-29 June 2006 in Hong Kong. The selected chapters are organized into four themes: GIS Informatics; Human and Environmental Factors; Disease modeling; and Public health, population health technologies, and surveillance.
Public health has been deﬁned as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts of society.” This deﬁnition was arrived at in the inquiry established to consider the future development of the public health function including the control of communicable disease in England (Acheson, 1988). The inquiry was set up following failures in the system to protect the health of the public from two major outbreaks of communicable disease caused by salmonella and Legionnaires’ disease. Since then, a number of health scares have highlighted the need for continuing improvements in public health protection systems. Recent high proﬁle examples include the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy commonly known as mad cow disease. The description of disease epidemiology typically has three elements: time, place, and person. Describing the outbreak and spread of a communicable disease therefore explicitly includes a spatial component. Although this has long been recognized (e.g., the investigation of cholera outbreaks in London by John Snow), an important barrier to examining the spatial element of disease outbreaks has been the lack of both digitized spatial data and the computer tools for mapping and spatial analysis.