Deep Learning to Unveil Correlations between Urban Landscape and Population Health

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Apr 8;20(7):2105. doi: 10.3390/s20072105.


The global healthcare landscape is continuously changing throughout the world as technology advances, leading to a gradual change in lifestyle. Several diseases such as asthma and cardiovascular conditions are becoming more diffuse, due to a rise in pollution exposure and a more sedentary lifestyle. Healthcare providers deal with increasing new challenges, and thanks to fast-developing big data technologies, they can be faced with systems that provide direct support to citizens. In this context, within the EU-funded Participatory Urban Living for Sustainable Environments (PULSE) project, we are implementing a data analytic platform designed to provide public health decision makers with advanced approaches, to jointly analyze maps and geospatial information with healthcare and air pollution data. In this paper we describe a component of such platforms, which couples deep learning analysis of urban geospatial images with healthcare indexes collected by the 500 Cities project. By applying a pre-learned deep Neural Network architecture, satellite images of New York City are analyzed and latent feature variables are extracted. These features are used to derive clusters, which are correlated with healthcare indicators by means of a multivariate classification model. Thanks to this pipeline, it is possible to show that, in New York City, health care indexes are significantly correlated to the urban landscape. This pipeline can serve as a basis to ease urban planning, since the same interventions can be organized on similar areas, even if geographically distant.

Keywords: convolutional neural networks; deep learning; health indexes; public health; transfer learning; urban landscape.