Spatio-temporal Epidemiology: Principles and Opportunities

Spat Spatiotemporal Epidemiol. 2011 Mar;2(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.sste.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


Space-time analysis of disease data has historically involved the search for patterns in aggregated data to identify how regions of high and low risk change through time. Space-time analysis of aggregated data has great value, but represents only a subset of space-time epidemiologic applications. Technological advances for tracking and mapping individuals (e.g., global positioning systems) have introduced mobile populations as an important element in space-time epidemiology. We review five domains critical to the developing field of spatio-temporal epidemiology: (1) spatio-temporal epidemiologic theory, (2) selection of appropriate spatial scale of analysis, (3) choice of spatial/spatio-temporal method for pattern identification, (4) individual-level exposure assessment in epidemiologic studies, and (5) assessment and consideration of locational and attribute uncertainty. This review provides an introduction to principles of space-time epidemiology and highlights future research opportunities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring*
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Geography, Medical / methods
  • Geography, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis*