Evaluation of spatial relationships between health and the environment: the rapid inquiry facility

Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Sep;118(9):1306-12. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901849. Epub 2010 May 10.


Background: The initiation of environmental public health tracking systems in the United States and the United Kingdom provided an opportunity to advance techniques and tools available for spatial epidemiological analysis integrating both health and environmental data.

Objective: The Rapid Inquiry Facility (RIF) allows users to calculate adjusted and unadjusted standardized rates and risks. The RIF is embedded in ArcGIS so that further geographical information system (GIS) spatial functionality can be exploited or results can be exported to statistical packages for further tailored analyses where required. The RIF also links directly to several statistical packages and displays the results in the GIS.

Methods: The value of the RIF is illustrated here with two case studies: risk of leukemia in areas surrounding oil refineries in the State of Utah (USA) and an analysis of the geographical variation of risk of esophageal cancer in relation to zinc cadmium sulfide exposure in Norwich (United Kingdom).

Results: The risk analysis study in Utah did not suggest any evidence of increased relative risk of leukemia, multiple myeloma, or Hodgkin's lymphoma in the populations around the five oil-refining facilities but did reveal an excess risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that might warrant further investigation. The disease-mapping study in Norwich did not reveal any areas with higher relative risks of esophageal cancer common to both males and females, suggesting that a common geographically determined exposure was unlikely to be influencing cancer risk in the area.

Conclusion: The RIF offers a tool that allows epidemiologists to quickly carry out ecological environmental epidemiological analysis such as risk assessment or disease mapping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Health / methods*
  • Epidemiology
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Public Health / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom
  • United States