Tutorial I: Organizing Principles – An Introduction to GIS

This training introduces several useful pieces of analytical GIS functionality with health applications including: cartographic principles, table joins, and feature symbolization. Each module includes a lecture, a hands-on exercise using ArcGIS, and the data needed to complete the exercise. You must have access to ArcGIS Desktop in order to complete this training series.

This training is part of a larger curriculum created as part of the GIS Surveillance for Heart Disease, Stroke, and Other Chronic Diseases in State and Local Health Departments project.

Learn more about the other GIS Training programs.

Module 1.1: Considering Spatial Data

Goals: The goal of this exercise is to gain a basic understanding of data types commonly used in GIS and work within ArcCatalog and Windows Explorer to view these files.

 Skills: After completing this exercise, you will have some familiarity with common data formats used in GIS. You will explore, move, and organize spatial and non-spatial data effectively and safely using ArcCatalog.

Estimated time to complete: 15 minutes

Module 1.2: Displaying Data

Goals: The goal of this exercise is to explore how to display and symbolize qualitative and quantitative data by creating two exploratory maps of heart disease rates for senior citizens in Minnesota.

Skills: After completing this exercise, you will have a basic understanding of working with ArcMap’s data view and layout view. You will be familiar with connecting to folders, adding shapefiles to an ArcMap project, symbolizing attributes, inserting map elements, and exporting a map to a PDF.

Estimated time to complete: 45 minutes

Module 1.3: Working with Spatial Data

Goals: The goals of this exercise are to practice using projection tools from ArcToolbox and to work through common projection issues and solutions in ArcMap.

Skills: After completing this exercise, you will be able to display point level data from a table, define projections, project data, and adjust the data frame coordinate system.

Estimated time to complete: 25 minutes

Module 1.4: Leveraging the What of Geographic Data

Goals: The goals for this exercise are to join a New York state Census Tract shapefile to a .dbf table containing tract level population data from the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) 5 Year Estimates, and export the combined table to a new .shp file for display.

Skills: After completing this exercise, you will be able to execute a basic table join in ArcMap, export data as a shapefile, select features by attributes, create selection queries, change your selections, and access descriptive statistics for data in ArcMap.

Estimated time to complete: 30 minutes

Module 1.5: Map Design and Communication

Goal: This presentation focuses on map making fundamentals for communicating with various audiences. It includes some things to consider for cartographic best practices. The module and exercise are in PDF format.

About the Authors

This GIS training curriculum was developed by the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.

Children's Environmental Health Initiative (CEHI)

The Children’s Environmental Health Initiative (CEHI) is a research, education, and outreach program committed to fostering environments where all people can prosper. CEHI has developed, maintains, and extends an extensive fully spatially referenced data architecture on children’s environmental health. This makes it possible to jointly consider diverse variables collected by different disciplines, creating the opportunity to explore the complex and dynamic relationships among the components of health.