HSCI 424: Strategic Applications of GIS in Health

Accessing assistance

I have created this guide to support you through your final project for HSCI 424.

If you need help, please contact Sarah (Tong) Zhang, Librarian for Geography, GIS, & Maps at 778-782-9704 or tza68@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.

GIS resources at SFU Library

Access GIS software, geospatial data, options for GIS training (in person and online), consultations, and other means of support via SFU Library's GIS & Maps pages.

Access points for geospatial data

SFU Library 

The licensed geospatial data that SFU Library has purchased are available for instant download in SFU's section of ABACUS. Browse datasets or use the search box in the top right to search by keyword(s). ABACUS also contains statistical and numeric data. See also the Public Data Collection in ABACUS (no SFU login required). 

Integrated Cadastral Information Society (ICIS) Data
Use the ICIS BC Spatial Public Map Viewer to quickly and easily view ICIS data. The GIS & Map Librarian (Sarah (Tong) Zhang; tza68@sfu.ca) can download the following datasets on behalf of SFU researchers:

  • Cadastral data for all of BC
  • AddressBC Data
  • Assessment Fabric Layer Data from BC Assessment
  • Canadian Wildlife Service
  • Agricultural Land Reserve
  • Health Authority Locations
  • Conservation Parcels
  • Police Jurisdictions

BC Geographic Data - Many products on this page are free and can be downloaded by anyone. However, some have a cost. The GIS & Map Librarian (Sarah (Tong) Zhang; tza68@sfu.ca) can download the following products on behalf of SFU researchers for free or a reduced cost. These products are for academic use only. 

LandScan Global Population
Country-level demographic data, 1st level admin demographic data, pixel (1km²) level data, and a layer with area calculations for population density. Country and 1st level admin level data include age, gender, and age-by-gender population breakdowns. 

Open Data catalogues

  • Many government bodies (municipalities, provinces, nations, and others) increasingly make geospatial data available via open data catalogues and portals. You can generally locate these by searching for the name of your municipality, region, or province + "open data" using search engines like DuckDuckGo or Google. Note that sometimes you won't find data at the most granular level and will have to take a step back—you can often use regional, provincial, or even national data to get a municipality, for example.
  • Open data portals across Canada - Not an exhaustive list. If you don't see the area that you're looking for, use the search technique mentioned above.
  • A few especially good or important local Open Data catalogues:

Searching the web

Internet search engines can be a great way to locate datasets. Things to keep in mind:

  • Search engines such as Google give you specific commands that let you have more control and make your search more effective. In general, you want to nest and synonyms and related terms in parentheses and use OR within the parentheses to combine them. For example: Vancouver (parks OR trails OR "green space" OR "street trees"). Using quotation marks around phrases will search for an exact phrase. Consult the Library's search tips for Google and Google Scholar for more information. 
  • You need to use geospatial keywords like the following in your search: GIS, shapefile, shp, “spatial data”, geospatial, "open data"
  • As an example, searching Google for: 
    ("tree inventory" OR "street trees") Ottawa (geospatial OR "open data")
    brings me to this page in the City of Ottawa's data catalogue, where I can download a shapefile or kmz of street trees in Ottawa. 


Academic library data catalogues and portals

Many academic library data catalogues or portals contain Open Data that anyone can download; here are a few that do. 

Scholars Geoportal - Ontario Council of University Libraries 
MIT Geoweb - MIT, Harvard, Tufts, MassGIS
ABACUS Public Data Collection - UBC, SFU, UVic, UNBC

Citing data