VGI and Public Health: Possibilities and Pitfalls

  • Christopher GoransonEmail author
  • Sayone Thihalolipavan
  • Nicolás di Tada


Recent advances in technologies that allow for the collection of volunteered geographic information (VGI) are providing new opportunities for health research. These technologies provide for the collection of time-sensitive, fluid data from a broad pool of subjects using sophisticated yet easy-to-use data collection tools – principally the smartphone and other location-aware devices. Never before has it been so easy for health researchers to collect and analyze real-time location-based data. The result of which can provide continuously updated datasets that often capture a more than just a snapshot of events or environmental factors. These technologies also allow the researcher to create novel datasets that do not presently exist. However, the use of such technologies to collect potentially identifiable data poses risks to both the researcher and the subject. The tools introduce new challenges and ethical problems if used improperly for health research. This chapter investigates both the potential of VGI in public health research while discussing some challenges of using technology platforms that can leverage and provide collection tools for volunteered geographic information.


Geographic Information System Short Message Service Health Information Technology Personal Health Record Volunteer Geographic Information 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) for contributions and feedback on this chapter. Christopher Goranson works for the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping, of The New School, and previously worked for the NYC DOHMH. Sayone Thihalolipavan works for the NYC DOHMH, and Nicolás di Tada works for Innovative Support to Emergencies Diseases and Disasters (InSTEDD).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Goranson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sayone Thihalolipavan
    • 2
  • Nicolás di Tada
    • 3
  1. 1.Parsons Institute for Information MappingThe New SchoolNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention & Tobacco ControlNew York City Department of Health and Mental HygieneNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Innovative Support to Emergencies Diseases and Disasters (InSTEDD)Palo AltoUSA

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