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Health Commun. 2007;22(1):13-24.

Mapping as a visual health communication tool: promises and dilemmas.

Author information

1
Department of Communication Arts & Science, The Pennsylvania State University, PA 16802, USA. rlp18@psu.edu

Abstract

In the era of evidence-based public health promotion and planning, the use of maps as a form of evidence to communicate about the multiple determinants of cancer is on the rise. Geographic information systems and mapping technologies make future proliferation of this strategy likely. Yet disease maps as a communication form remain largely unexamined. This content analysis considers the presence of multivariate information, credibility cues, and the communication function of publicly accessible maps for cancer control activities. Thirty-six state comprehensive cancer control plans were publicly available in July 2005 and were reviewed for the presence of maps. Fourteen of the 36 state cancer plans (39%) contained map images (N = 59 static maps). A continuum of map inter activity was observed, with 10 states having interactive mapping tools available to query and map cancer information. Four states had both cancer plans with map images and interactive mapping tools available to the public on their Web sites. Of the 14 state cancer plans that depicted map images, two displayed multivariate data in a single map. Nine of the 10 states with interactive mapping capability offered the option to display multivariate health risk messages. The most frequent content category mapped was cancer incidence and mortality, with stage at diagnosis infrequently available. The most frequent communication function served by the maps reviewed was redundancy, as maps repeated information contained in textual forms. The social and ethical implications for communicating about cancer through the use of visual geographic representations are discussed.

PMID:
17617010
DOI:
10.1080/10410230701310265
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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