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Contributing Writer · Apr 15, 2011

TED Talks Medical: Should Electronic Medical Records feature Geographical History?

There’s something about the TEDMED talks that just captivate my imagination and boggle my mind. These people come from all walks of life, from all over the globe, all with a story that has produced a creation that sometimes is so outside of the box, you’re left wondering what other amazing discoveries are out there. Recently I stumbled across another eye-opening talk on the correlation between toxicity and where you live.

Bill Davenhall, leads the health and human services marketing team at ESRI, the largest geographic information system software developer in the world. During his 2009 TED talk he asked an interesting question, should Electronic Medical Records feature a geographical history? Can we essentially better ourselves from living in certain areas? Davenhall says the time for geo-medicine is now.

After his 2001 heart attack, he decided to dig deep and find out why him? He went through his “place history”, where he spent the majority of his life and how those environments could have impacted his health. He spent his first 19 years in Scranton, PA, broke it down to how much carbon dioxide and methane gas his lungs took in over time. Next he moved to Louisville, KY, where he lived next to a plastics plant for 25 years, exposing his lungs to chloroprene and benzene. From there he moved to Redlands, CA where his lungs were then filled with very high doses of ozone and carbon dioxide (aka LA smog).

Bill realized no doctor ever asked him where he lived and what his environment was like. He figured out, if he wanted to have a heart attack he has lived in all the right places. He then came to this conclusion, that where you lived may determine how healthy you are and that EMRs hold the power to incorporate this hypothesis. It’s a new way to look at your past and how you can hopefully change the future of your health. Check out the video for more on how he came to this conclusion and what he and his team plan to do.