Because people do not necessarily become ill proportionally, particular subgroups of the population are more susceptible to certain types of diseases than others. It is also essential to take spatial distribution and accessibility of the population into account when considering the optimal location of medical facilities. A geographical profile of the heterogeneous population of South Africa with regard to demographic and socioeconomic composition and urbanisation patterns is therefore presented. Analysis of the composition of the population by tabulating and mapping population census results reveals a complexity which arises from the diversity between the developed white profile and the developing black and coloured communities with their escalating numbers, relative youth and socio-economic backlog. Examination of the maps shows up an unbalanced spatial urbanisation profile with overconcentration in the five metropolitan core areas. Although such a population framework usually fits best to cancer epidemiology, most other diseases could benefit from such an approach.