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University of Toronto and Esri Canada form public health research collaboration

Dalla Lana School of Public Health gains access to advanced mapping and analysis tools and support to improve research focused on health equity and public health preparedness

TORONTO—March 29, 2023—The University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH) and Esri Canada have entered into a three-year collaboration to enhance Canadian public health research and training through the use of geographic information systems (GIS). The collaboration empowers students, professors and researchers with advanced GIS tools for data management, analysis, dynamic modelling and visualization. This supports better public health decision making, health promotion and policy research to improve health equity. The collaboration is co-led by Prof. Laura Rosella, associate professor and director of the Population Health Analytics Lab at DLSPH, and Dr. Alexander Watts, industry manager for public health at Esri Canada.

"This collaboration will allow us to build a greater capacity for using data, geographic information and visualizations to support the important work of public health," said Prof. Rosella. "It allows us to improve the ability to develop more tailored and effective health policies and interventions."

Esri technology powered the Johns Hopkins University global COVID-19 dashboard, which received more than 2.5 billion views and became a vital decision-support tool for government and public health leaders, policy makers, media and the public during the pandemic. Given the rise in digital technologies adopted throughout the pandemic to map, analyze and communicate the spread of disease outbreaks, this collaboration aims to further integrate geospatial tools into DLSPH ongoing research programs and new project initiatives. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted for us, once again, that some people are more at risk than others. This is true for so many public health challenges for Canadians,” said Dr. Watts. “Maps help us strategize interventions that prioritize the most vulnerable. We’re excited to collaborate with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health in this important mission.”

Through the collaboration, the University of Toronto hosted its first Geospatial Data Visualization Challenge in February 2023. DLSPH students assembled teams with students from across the university to develop a story map based on a public health issue of their choice for cash prizes. Students produced story maps that analyzed and provided recommendations for addressing issues such as child food insecurity, healthy food access and obesity and the opioid crisis.

"This was a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the power of data, public health knowledge and creative visualizations to provide new perspectives on pressing public health issues,” said Prof. Rosella. “It was amazing to see how the students from different disciplinary backgrounds used these tools to make the public health data come to life in a way that will significantly impact how we understand and address important public health matters."

Read more about the University of Toronto Geospatial Data Visualization Challenge.
Explore the role of GIS in public health at   

About University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health
The Dalla Lana School of Public Health is a faculty of the University of Toronto, and Canada’s largest public health school. Our community is comprised of internationally recognized teachers, students, practitioners, policymakers and citizens.  We create new knowledge, educate changemakers, advance practice and guide the way to better, more equitable outcomes in population health and health systems – locally, nationally and globally. Join us at the forefront of change in health! 

About Esri Canada
Founded in 1984, Esri Canada provides geographic information system (GIS) solutions that empower people in business, government and education to make informed and timely decisions by leveraging the power of mapping and spatial analytics. These solutions enable organizations to better manage their resources, plan their future and collaborate within and beyond their organization. Esri Canada’s products and services help advance successful digital transformation. The company serves 12,000 organizations from 15 offices across Canada and is based in Toronto. In 2019, Esri Canada achieved Platinum Club status with the Canada's Best Managed Companies program by retaining its Best Managed designation for seven consecutive years or more. More information can be found at Follow Esri Canada on TwitterFacebookYouTubeInstagram and LinkedIn.

Media Contacts

Heidi Singer
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Joy Chan
Esri Canada