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Who's Watching Your Food? A Flexible Framework for Public Health Monitoring

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By responding to potentially life‐threatening emergencies such as foodborne illnesses and water contamination, U.S. public health agencies play a vital role in promoting human health and protecting the environment. Local, state, and federal partners must collaborate to strategically plan initiatives, allocate resources, and evaluate emergency response activities. These collaborative decision‐making processes can be improved by using web‐based mapping applications for visualization and analysis. We developed a web‐based GIS framework which is applied to public health data for North Carolina's (NC) Department of Health and Human Services. The application visualizes all state‐regulated food service facilities and supports query and analysis tools crucial for food recalls or radiation contamination tracking. Built with PostgreSQL/PostGIS, GeoServer, and a customized GeoExplorer map viewer, the framework delivers a web‐based mapping tool that is flexible and Open Source. The flexibility of the framework is an important dimension of its scalability, allowing it to be customizable, modular, and portable so that it is easily configurable to support additional research and education initiatives. This approach reverses a trend toward application‐specific web mapping development in Open Source GIS. To demonstrate flexibility, we configured an additional website for forest landowner management to be used by another state agency, the NC Forest Service.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center for Earth Observation, North Carolina State University 2: North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources 3: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services 4: North Carolina Forest Service, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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