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Open Access Highly Accessed Editorial

Web GIS in practice II: interactive SVG maps of diagnoses of sexually transmitted diseases by Primary Care Trust in London, 1997 – 2003

Maged N Kamel Boulos1*, Chris Russell2 and Michael Smith2

Author Affiliations

1 School for Health, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, UK

2 Graphical Data Capture Ltd, 3rd Floor, 69 Wilson Street, London EC2A 2BB, UK

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2005, 4:4  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-4-4

Published: 18 January 2005

Abstract

Background

The rates of Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in England have been rising steadily since the mid 1990s, making them a major public health concern. In 2003, 672,718 people were diagnosed with an STD in England, and around one third of those cases were diagnosed in London.

Results

Using GeoReveal v1.1 for Windows, we produced Web-based interactive choropleth maps of diagnoses of STDs by Primary Care Trust (PCT) in London for the years from 1997 to 2003 http://healthcybermap.org/PCT/STDs/ webcite. These maps are in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format and require a freely available Adobe SVG browser plug-in to be displayed. They are based on data obtained from the House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 15 October 2004. They show steadily rising rates of STDs in London over the covered seven-year period. Also, one can clearly see on the maps that PCTs located in central London had the highest numbers of STD diagnoses throughout the mapped seven years. A companion bar chart allows users to instantly compare the STD figure of a given PCT for a given year against the average figure for all 25 mapped PCTs for the same year, and also compare those figures across all seven years. The maps offer users a rich set of useful features and functions, including the ability to change the classification method in use, the number of ranges in the map, and the colour theme, among others.

Conclusions

Wizard-driven tools like GeoReveal have made it very easy to transform complex raw data into valuable decision support information products (interactive Web maps) in very little time and without requiring much expertise. The resultant interactive maps have the potential of further supporting health planners and decision makers in their planning and management tasks by allowing them to graphically interrogate data, instantly spot trends, and make quick and effective visual comparisons of geographically differentiated phenomena between different geographical areas and over time.

SVG makes an ideal format for such maps. SVG is a World Wide Web Consortium non-proprietary, XML-based vector graphics format, and is an extremely powerful alternative to Macromedia® Flash and bitmap graphics.