Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to assess the role of the built environment in influencing obesity: a glossary

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011 Jul 1;8:71. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-8-71.


Features of the built environment are increasingly being recognised as potentially important determinants of obesity. This has come about, in part, because of advances in methodological tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS has made the procurement of data related to the built environment easier and given researchers the flexibility to create a new generation of environmental exposure measures such as the travel time to the nearest supermarket or calculations of the amount of neighbourhood greenspace. Given the rapid advances in the availability of GIS data and the relative ease of use of GIS software, a glossary on the use of GIS to assess the built environment is timely. As a case study, we draw on aspects the food and physical activity environments as they might apply to obesity, to define key GIS terms related to data collection, concepts, and the measurement of environmental features.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Environment Design*
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Software
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Walking