The future relevance of medical geography for health planning, health and development in the third world

David R. Phillips*, Yola Verhasselt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article has deliberately ranged widely and suggested various research themes to which medical geographers interested in health and development might turn their attention. The International Geographical Union Commission on Health and Development established in 1988 suggested a research agenda which includes many of them (see IGU Commission on Health and Development, Circular Letter No. 1 published in GeoJournal 17, 4, 659-660 (1988)). The achievement of even part of such an agenda will call for close international collaboration in research amongst medical geographers and allied disciplines. Increasingly, medical geographers are gaining applied experience in health and health care in the developing world. They are obtaining breadth and depth of knowledge and are now, for example, cogniscant of financial matters such as those involved in the 'cost explosion' in health care worlwide which has particularly sinister implications for the health of Third World countries (Josephg and Phillips 1984). They, too, are now increasingly comfortable in dealing with epidemiological and demographic data. Geographers now no longer focus solely on phenomena such as distance decay or environments for disease. They are aware that human resources, intelligence, aspirations, attitudes and finance are all potent variables influencing 'successful' health care and health in populations. In the future, therefore, the wide-ranging ambit of medical geography will increasingly become relevant to health and health care research in the Third World. Contributions of value will emerge both from those geographers adopting more socio-political stances and those adopting a more empiricist approach. However, it is the holistic nature of geography, with its wide academic links, and the courage of geographers to research in new topics and gain sound understanding of them which will increasingly be recognized. The days of extempore contributions to political, policy and practical debates on health and development are now largely past. Well researched, solid and sound medical geography contributions will, it is hoped, forge ahead.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-134
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1989
Externally publishedYes


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