The geography of health

Posted by Joshua Newton On August 1, 2010 0 comments

On the 31st of August, 1854, an outbreak of cholera struck the Soho district of London. At the time of the outbreak, the prevailing theory was that cholera and other infectious diseases were spread by ‘bad air’. Dr. John Snow, a local physician, was sceptical of this theory and, with the help of a local minister, found sufficient evidence that cholera was a water-borne disease to convince local officials to disable the water pump at the heart of the outbreak.

In subsequent years, Snow went on to map the residence of each person who was infected with cholera in the 1854 Soho outbreak. The key insight from his map was that disease – and more generally health – has a spatial dimension. In the case of Snow’s map, this spatial information provided some clue as to the cause of the health condition. In many contexts, however, simply seeing geographical variations in health-related indicators can be of interest, especially to public policy makers.

Each of the maps below represents the local statistical areas that correspond to the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. As can be seen from the maps, certain health-related indicators vary dramatically across suburbs. Notice in particular the greater rates of physical inactivity and psychological distress in the inner western and outer south-eastern suburbs. Also note that smoking rates appear to increase with distance from the Melbourne CBD.


No comments:

Post a Comment