Review of Participatory GIS Methods

Previous authors have explored the concept of participatory GIS and community- integrated GIS.1-4-10 The common theme from these publications suggests that participatory GIS, also referred to as community-i ntegrated GIS, community mapping, or collaborative mapping, is largely informed by the context, and is issue-driven rather than technology-led.1,4-8 The concept is inspired by the pressing need to emphasize the effective representation, inclusion, and active involvement of a community in the production and use of geographic information.1,4-8

The central tenet of participatory GIS, which is intended to empower at-risk and hard-to-reach communities, is social inclusiveness. Scientific methods and tools that empower and effectively engage a community, such as participatory GIS, have moved to the forefront. Participatory GIS has key capabilities and advantages: It can help with community health assessment through data collection and analysis, provide a learning opportunity for community stakeholders and researchers, and facilitate the determination of the most appropriate solution. Despite participatory GIS’s capability, it is essential to have a true and meaningful dialogue among participants. This helps with trust building and also facilitates the successful use of scientific measurement tools, strategies, and research methods. Reaching out through encouragement and offering training support, especially to socioeconomically disadvantaged communities with low health literacy and numeracy, enables them to fully engage in the CBPR process from initial planning to implementation phase. Broadening public participation requires that community partners be given the opportunity to be involved and contribute to the community-based initiatives.11

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has endorsed six principles of effective CBPR: (1) promotes active collaboration and participation at every stage of research, (2) fosters colearning, (3) ensures projects are community-driven, (4) disseminates results in useful terms, (5) ensures research and intervention strategies are culturally appropriate, and (6) defines community as a unit of identity.1 Other authors, including Dennis Jr. et al.,3 Dulin et al.,12 and Tapp and White,10 have described the principles of the CBPR process in similar terms. Based on the six identified CBPR principles, we can infer that numerous research opportunities exist at every stage of research for the use of participatory GIS methods.

A number of interesting commentaries and groundbreaking studies in participatory GIS methods have been published in journals, newspapers, textbooks, and other reports.1,4-10,13-15 Participatory GIS and community-integrated GIS have been applied in a wide range of contexts. These include community health needs assessment;12,16-19 neighborhood mapping;13,20-22 community asset mapping, tracking, and monitoring;10,15,17 environmental risk, vulnerability, and disaster assessment;23 spatiotemporal measures and changes;12,18 identification of contextual factors and decision-making;12,17,18,24-26 development of place-based health measures and interventions;12,18,27,28 and data integration, visualization, and management needs.2,3,12,18,29-31 Table 4.1 presents a sample of these GIS participatory applications.

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