Sunday, September 7, 2014

Population Health-Resources Accessibility Study Started by GIS Research

Long distance between people’s living space and a public resource such as a grocery store is likely not something desirable. It is also thought to be a health issue because long distance means it takes longer for people to get what they need in order to function and live. This notion is what caused a group of researchers in New Zealand to organize information about areas in the country with varying distances between citizens’ living spaces and the resources that help them live.

Summary of Article and Research
            This article representing a study describes research done in New Zealand by data-collectors who calculated distances using computer software between living areas and living resources. These resources were markets for food, medical attention, personal development, and recreation, to name a few. The study emphasized that all of these were linked to health and well-being of individuals. A theory that the distance between citizens’ living spaces and resources they need for physical and mental health has a direct link to the health of that community is a main point brought up in this study.
Data that the researchers pulled were sorted into five categories, ranging in distance to these resources. Category 1 included areas of the country that were closest to resources, and category 5 included areas of the country that were the furthest away. The team of researchers calculated the distance between a living space and a resource using GIS (Graphing Information Systems). This is basically software that requires a level of knowledge and practice to use, but once learned can help make accurate maps of various types. The team made sure to calculate the distance from living space to public resource using roads instead of a straight-line distance. This was to provide a more accurate simulation of a citizen’s travel to the resource.
The researchers ended up with a map that identified areas of New Zealand according to how well resourced they were. They concluded that the GIS software which they used to represent their collections of data as a map was helpful, and that they wanted to use their organized research as a base to continue exploration into public health. This highlights the significance of GIS work.

What I Noticed/Questions Raised
As the researchers mentioned, it was noticeable that the data they collected about the country’s citizens and their proximity to these valuable resources came from sources which are objective. I think a next step would to be to incorporate subject-oriented information such as reasons behind trends of resource location, and consumers’ satisfaction level with their resources along with their dissatisfaction level.
Where does mental health and psychology come into play?
Are people who live closer to resources happier because of their quick access to the resources, or possibly more distracted by noise associated with busy places, stressed because of large crowds, and disheartened by a trickling pace of transportation in an area of dense population and traffic? I think mental health is important to a citizenry and think that mental health resources should also be worked with.
            Why are the amount of some resources low and have a high average of traveling distance from living areas?
Looking at the researchers’ tables, I noticed hospitals were often further away than most other resources. Is this because they are more complex facilities to operate, it is a more restricted field of employment, is it a high-stress job, or for all of these reasons?
            Why are the amount of some resources high and have a low average of traveling distance from living areas?
                        It seems like resources such as parks and recreational facilities such as pools are more spread out, based on what I gathered from the data. Is this because they are easier to operate and less complex, more enjoyable places to work at, they are financially easier to sustain, or all of the above?
My Opinion on the Study
            The team seemed to do as accurate of a job as possible considering all the elements of error present when compiling data and making sure it was relevant. I think psychological factors such as media influence, individual experience, and safety should be looked at more closely in research like this. Some places may carry negative associations with some of the population for whatever reason, and therefore they might not want to use the particular resources, making them irrelevant. Through surveying the population, I suggest highlighting resources that are known for things such as a high rating of customer service and general helpfulness. Ideas such as these often play a larger part in the lives of citizens than can be accounted for in data.

Works Cited
I consulted this work to write the above information and give it full-credit towards my knowledge of the subject:

Pearce, J., Witten, K., & Bartie, P. (2006). Neighbourhoods and health: a GIS approach to measuring community resource accessibility. Journal of epidemiology and community health60(5), 389-395.

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