Monday, January 26, 2015

Neighbourhoods and health: a GIS approach to measuring community resource accessibility

Recently, GIS applications have been used to analyze phenomenon such as "Food Wastelands" which have a negative effect on disadvantaged populations in New Zealand. The problem is compounded when long travel times to facilities such as day cares, ERs, and Marae buildings mix with a poor public transportation infrastructure.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world, and for the 10% of households without a car this makes access to necessary services very difficult. Living in rural areas that can have upwards of two hour travel times (by car) to the nearest grocery store or day care center can spell disaster for a family that needs to commute. In order to see these trends, 38,350 population based units of New Zealand where analyzed to determine travel times to sixteen health related resources. These units are geometric shapes based on population size (about 1,000 individuals) ranging from small urban kilometer-squared areas to thousand-kilometer squared rural areas. Access to the resources was determined by measuring distance from the population center (not geometric center) of the units following roads (instead of straight lines) to the nearest resource. Trends were found where rural areas had a shorter travel time to beaches or parks while urban areas had better access to food and schools.

This map shows the travel time in minutes of each unit in New Zealand, with major cities having very short travel times while rural areas such as the South-West had long times creating effective "food wastelands".

Maps like these can be used to determine relationships between poverty in an area and lack of access to health resources. Improvements can be made in city planning for areas that have poor access to multiple resources, such as improving public transportation in suburbs such as the ones in the map of Wellington below.

In creating this index of New Zealand, the researches have developed a tool that is quite plastic when it comes to applications. Travel times can be adjusted for different modes of transportation such as walking or biking in urban areas, population densities in rural areas can determine infrastructure range, and new niche markets can open up for food and health resources in in-between areas that have moderate travel times to get anywhere.

Source: 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.


1 comment:

  1. This article basically shows how GIS applications were able to determine the difference between rural populations and urban populations access to necessary institutions(hospitals, grocery stores, etc). Trends showed the rural areas had more access to recreational facilities while the urban to the necessary facilities. The trends created a "food wasteland" which are a disadvantage to the smaller population of people (rural) who have to travel hours before they can reach a facility that the urban population has easy access to.