Recent studies suggest an association between the contextual attributes of neighborhoods and the health status of residents. However, there has been a scarcity of studies that have directly measured the material characteristics of neighborhoods theorized to have an impact on health and health inequalities. This paper describes the development of an innovative methodology to measure geographical access to a range of community resources that have been empirically linked to health. GIS were applied to develop precise measures of community resource accessibility for small areas at a national scale.
Locational access to shopping, education, recreation, and health facilities was established for all
38 350 census meshblocks across New Zealand. Using GIS, distance measures were calculated from the
population weighted centroid of each meshblock to 16 specific types of facilities theorized as potentially
health related. From these data, indices of community resource accessibility for all New Zealand
neighborhoods were constructed.
Recent advances in GIS and computing capacity have made it feasible to directly measure
access to health related community resources at the neighborhood level. The construction of access
indices for specific community resources will enable health researchers to examine with greater precision,
variations in the material characteristics of neighborhoods and the pathways through which
neighborhoods impact on specific health outcomes.
Source: Pearce, J., Witten, K., & Bartie, P. (2006). Neighbourhoods and health: a GIS approach to measuring community resource accessibility. Journal of epidemiology and community health, 60(5), 389-395.