Geographic information systems and the spiritual dimension of health: a short position paper

Maged N Kamel Boulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The WHO's well known definition of health stressed the indivisibility of human well-being, physical and otherwise, by stating that health is "not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". The spiritual dimension of health is well covered in the medical literature. Different locations on Earth are associated with different interrelated profiles: physical, biological, environmental, socio-economic, cultural, and also spiritual profiles, that do affect and are affected by health (including its spiritual dimension), disease, healthcare, and pastoral care. A number of reviews have been recently published covering the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in understanding and harnessing the importance of location in the health sector. However, no publication so far has discussed the role of GIS in relation to the spiritual dimension of health. This position paper is an attempt to fill in this gap without going into deep details. GIS role in pastoral care ranges from assisting in pattern and trend detection, and in informed decision-making and resource management, to providing routing and educational functions, and even assessing the impact of missionary radio broadcasts. A review of some of the software tools that are currently available in this field is also provided. GIS are ideal tools for improving and coordinating the integration of the health (physical), social, and spiritual/ pastoral dimensions of individual and community care. However to achieve the full potential of GIS in these areas, we still need to combat many cultural and organisational barriers, while making the tools cheaper and much easier to learn and use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2003


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