A review of spatial methods in epidemiology, 2000-2010

Annu Rev Public Health. 2012 Apr:33:107-22. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031811-124655.


Understanding the impact of place on health is a key element of epidemiologic investigation, and numerous tools are being employed for analysis of spatial health-related data. This review documents the huge growth in spatial epidemiology, summarizes the tools that have been employed, and provides in-depth discussion of several methods. Relevant research articles for 2000-2010 from seven epidemiology journals were included if the study utilized a spatial analysis method in primary analysis (n = 207). Results summarized frequency of spatial methods and substantive focus; graphs explored trends over time. The most common spatial methods were distance calculations, spatial aggregation, clustering, spatial smoothing and interpolation, and spatial regression. Proximity measures were predominant and were applied primarily to air quality and climate science and resource access studies. The review concludes by noting emerging areas that are likely to be important to future spatial analysis in public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Demography
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Epidemiologic Research Design*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Regression Analysis
  • Space-Time Clustering