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Geocoding guide for users working on disease surveillance

Springfield, USA, January 7, 2009 – The North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), has announced the release of “A Geocoding Best Practices Guide,” which will serve as an authoritative source of information on the use of geocoding and GIS in cancer registries.

The Guide is authored by Daniel W. Goldberg of the University of Southern California (USC) GIS Research Laboratory, with input and guidance from members of the NAACCR GIS Committee. The Guide serves to centralise much of the available research and practice scholarship on these topics to provide a single, comprehensive perspective on all aspects of geocoding. Geocoding, for example, may involve the process of assigning latitude and longitude coordinates to street addresses.

The Guide is designed for a variety of users, including cancer registry staff, who design geocoding systems, those who geocode cancer data, and researchers who use these data for public health research and practice. Dr. John Wilson, Director of the USC GIS Research Laboratory, notes that the Best Practices Guide “will serve as a rich reference manual for anyone who wants to inject more science and less art (uncertainty) into their geocoding tasks.”

GIS software usage in public health research primarily includes analysing distance between a patient’s residence and their health care facility; geocoding can be used to quantify these distances, identify patient care patterns, and identify areas of need. Another area in which geocoding and GIS are used is in the assessment of suspected cancer clusters; geocoding allows cancer incidence patterns to be evaluated and can help to identify areas in which further research may be warranted.

Cancer registries collect important information on newly diagnosed cancer cases, including information on risk and treatment, to support cancer research studies and track the trends in cancer statistics. NAACCR represents all regional, state, and provincial cancer registries across North America.

“A Geocoding Best Practices Guide” may be viewed and downloaded at the GIS Committee page of the NAACCR web site (www.naaccr.org/committees/gis). This project has been funded in part with Federal funds from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services.