AAG-NIH Health Initiatives Overview
The AAG has been working closely with NIH for nearly a decade on the integration of geography and GIScience in medical and health research. The AAG and NIDA, for example, have jointly sponsored special symposia at the AAG’s Annual Meetings for more than five years on the previously undeveloped research area of geography and drug addiction. One result of this effort was the publication in 2008 of Geography and Drug Addiction (available from Springer or the AAG). Geography’s potential to contribute to the field of mental health research is another area of research the AAG is exploring with NIH. The role of geography and GIScience in helping to understand complex gene-environment interactions is a research area of great need and potential.
Two years ago, the AAG began to build on this collaborative foundation with NIH with a far-reaching new initiative for GIScience, health, and geography, called the AAG Initiative for an NIH-Wide GIS Infrastructure. The rationale for this AAG Initiative is the unmet need for spatial and spatiotemporal data and analyses, as well as for geographic context, across nearly all of the NIH's 30 individual institutes. This need is pressing for research undertaken at NIH ranging from gene-environment interaction in biomedical contexts to the tracking of disease outbreaks and the assessment of health service delivery.
After discussions with NIH officials in multiple Institutes, the AAG received support from and worked with NIH to hold a high-level workshop in February 2011 to further develop the conceptual framework and GIScience research needed for implementation of an NIH-wide GIS infrastructure. This workshop, co-sponsored by the AAG, NCI, and NIDA, included senior scientists and administrative leaders from all across NIH, as well as intramural and extramural researchers. Recommendations, priorities, and next steps in this process are the subject of a recent report prepared by the AAG and NIH, entitled Establishing an NIH-wide Geospatial Infrastructure for Medical Research: Opportunities, Challenges, and Next Steps.
In connection with the AAG Initiative for an NIH-Wide GIS Infrastructure, the AAG recently received a competitively awarded grant from NIH's crosscutting OppNet Program for an R13 proposal entitled Geospatial Frontiers in Health and Social Environments. A series of three symposia are planned in 2012 and 2013.