San Mateo County Department of Health – GIS, Epidemiology, Disease Control & Prevention

San Mateo County Department of Health - GIS, Epidemiology, Disease Control & Prevention

Client: San Mateo County Department of Health


The San Mateo Disease Control & Prevention division (DCPU) is responsible for monitoring and investigating cases of infectious diseases in the County and providing prevention education and training. Because location is one of the most important factors in determining where infectious diseases are originating and spreading, the DCPU wanted to use locational-savvy tools in their analyses. The Public Health Department had recently invested in ESRI’s ArcView and ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension but had minimal experience with GIS technology. Their division is mostly comprised of epidemiologists, community workers and health professionals and the bulk of disease tracking had been done manually. They needed to understand GIS, navigate ArcView and learn how to use it for public health functions.


Farallon customized a training course that had four functions:

  • Introduce the fundamentals of GIS
  • Provide hands-on experience with ESRI’s ArcView interface
  • Demonstrate how GIS could be used in disease prevention using County data and real scenarios
  • Show the division how to leverage the wealth of data in the County’s Enterprise GIS

Farallon conducted interviews to better assess the Department’s needs and customized a two-day course for DCPU. The first day focused on the fundamentals of GIS (definitions, relationships and common uses), familiarizing the students with the ArcView interface using Farallon-designed workflows, and demonstrating the datasets and applications that were available through the County’s Enterprise GIS. The second day used DCPU data to demonstrate how GIS could assist in their daily work projects. Using West Nile Virus tracking as an example, Farallon instructors taught staff how to synthesize their existing epidemiology data (i.e. patient addresses) with enterprise data (i.e. storm drains and address points) to perform a spatial and visual analysis. By mapping pools of standing water (storm drain inlets) against patient addresses using ArcView geocoding tools, they could effectively display areas that had dense mosquito populations and were at a higher risk for virus dissemination.