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Posted: June 30, 2005

FORT WORTH HOSTS MEDICAL GEOGRAPHERS FOR INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM JULY 5 TO 9


In recent years, medicine and geography have combined forces for a one-two punch against the spread of infectious diseases such as SARS, AIDS/HIV and pandemic flu.

“Medical geography is a science that uses data from demographics, health care delivery and cultural behavior among other information to map out how diseases might spread,” said Joseph Oppong, University of North Texas geography professor. “Medical geography is providing some answers to explain the spread of infectious diseases and prevalence of degenerative diseases.”

This summer, Fort Worth, Texas, will be the location of the largest and the longest running international gathering of medical and health geographers — the 11th International Medical Geography Symposium. The first symposium took place in Nottingham, England, in 1984. The upcoming symposium will take place July 5 – 9 (Tuesday – Saturday) in Fort Worth.

As chair of the Association of American Geographers’ medical geography specialty group, Oppong and Texas Department of State Health Services epidemiologist Sonia Arbona are coordinating the symposium. They expect more than 200 participants worldwide to attend.

Oppong says in addition to medical geographers, other professionals such as health care practitioners, social scientists as well as the general public will benefit from the conference.

UNT applied economics professor Bernard Weinstein also comments about the symposium.

“Medical geography is concerned with how best to allocate limited health care resources across diverse populations and regions,” he said. “It’s a growing field of research that has significant implications for public policy.”

The symposium will offer a pre-conference workshop, a plenary session and special sessions. This pre-conference workshop will take place July 5 (Tuesday) at the UNT Health Sciences Center located in Fort Worth at 3500 Camp Bowie Boulevard. The workshop sessions will focus on geographical information systems — computer systems that help scientists discover why a disease is located where it is by connecting data about locations of diseases with information such as environmental factors.

Fees for workshops are as follows:
Before June 15, workshop registration will be $100 and student workshop registration will be $75, while combined workshop/symposium fee will be $250 and combined student workshop/symposium fee will be $200.
After June 15, workshop registration will be $125 and student workshop registration will be $95, while combined workshop/symposium fee will be $275 and student combined workshop/symposium fee will be $225.
On-site workshop registration will be $140 and student workshop registration will be $100, while combined workshop/symposium fee will be $300 and student combined workshop/symposium fee will be $240.
Workshop speakers will provide geographic analysis about public health.

Chuck Croner, geographer and survey statistician for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, National Center for Health Statistics, will speak about the use of GIS, and standardized public health measurements and census geography that can help community planners better cost-effectively allocate scarce disease prevention and health promotion resources.

Croner is editor of Public GIS News and Information, a bimonthly report concerned with using GIS to help advance disease detection and prevention strategies throughout public health. Croner also pursues research interests in minority health disparities.

Ellen Cromley is a professor of geography at the University of Connecticut and assistant adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine. She will discuss how to map populations impacted by public health threats when these threats go beyond town boundaries to affect geographic regions.

Cromley worked with Connnecticut’s Department of Health to develop a GIS for public drinking water sources. She also conducted research for the CDC’s prevention of tick-born illnesses and Lyme disease intervention program.

Sara McLafferty, professor of geography at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will discuss strategies for mapping health problems and for analyzing disparities in population access to health care services. Her presentation will include topics such as density mapping — creating maps that show how the intensity of cases of disease varies across a region.

McLafferty uses geographic tools to understand inequalities in health and social well-being in cities throughout the United States. She has worked with community groups and local health agencies in analyzing health concerns such as breast cancer, low birth weight and access to prenatal care.

A question and answer forum will conclude the workshop.

A plenary session will take place July 6 (Wednesday) at the Fort Worth Plaza Hotel. Ronald Blanck, president of the UNT Health Science Center, will be the keynote speaker.

A doctor of osteopathy, Blanck oversees the health science center’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health and School of Health Professions at its Fort Worth campus. He is also an adviser on bioterrorism issues and expert in preparing medical community response to mass casualty incidents.

After a military career of 32 years, serving as medical officer and culminating as Surgeon General of the U.S. Army for 32 years, Blanck taught at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University School of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He has been honored by the American Medical Association and the National Board of Medical Examiners, among others.

Symposium sessions will include “A Respiratory Risk-Scape for Children in Texas;” “Neighbourhood differences in perception of place and health in the region of Quebec;” “Circulation and Risk: Case Study on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in India;” “Public Health Facing International Migration in Spain;” and “Migration and Geographic Clusters of Tuberculosis Strains in Tarrant County, TX.”

The conference is sponsored by the UNT Department of Geography, UNT Health Science Center, International Geographical Union Commission on Health and Environment, the Association of American Geographers, Canadian Association of Geographers and the Institute of British Geographers.

Symposium registration is $200 for attendees and $150 for U.S. students. The general public is invited to attend.

To register, go to www.research.umbc.edu/~earickso/Symposium11.html and access the conference registration link or call the UNT Department of Geography at (940) 565-2091 or send an e-mail to geog@unt.edu.

According to Bernard Weinstein, UNT professor of applied economics, medical geography is a growing field of research that has significant implications for public policy. “Medical geography is concerned with how best to allocate limited health care resources across diverse populations and regions,” Weinstein said.

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Contact: Cathy Cashio 940-565-4644, metro 817-267-0651, email ccashio@unt.edu.

If you are with the media and need additional information or would like to arrange an interview,
please contact Jeff Carlton, Director of Media Relations, at 817-735-7630.

 

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