Spatial Analysis in a Public Health Setting
Robert Lipton (Prevention Research Center, USA), D. M. Gorman (The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, USA), William F. Wieczorek (Buffalo State College-State University of New York, USA) and Paul Gruenewald (Prevention Research Center, USA)
Copyright: © 2005
Spatial methods are an increasingly important tool in understanding public health issues. Spatial analysis addresses an often forgotten or misunderstood aspect of public health, namely, studying the dynamics of people in places. As advances in computer technology have continued apace, spatial methods have become an appealing way to understand the manner in which the individual relates to larger frameworks that compose the human community and the physical nature of human environments (streets with intersections, dense vs. sparse neighborhoods, high or low densities of liquor stores or restaurants, etc.). Spatial methods are extremely data-intensive, often pulling together information from disparate sources that have been collected for other purposes, such as research, business practice, governmental policy, and law enforcement. Although initially more demanding in regard to data manipulation compared to typical population level methods, the ability to compile and compare data in a spatial framework provides much additional information about human populations that lies beyond typical survey or census research. We will discuss general methods of spatial analysis and mapping which will help to elucidate when and how spatial analysis might be used in a public health setting. Further, we will discuss a practical research example focusing on the relationship between alcohol and violence.