Research - GeoHealth Laboratory - University of Canterbury - New Zealand


Boy with asthmaStaff associated with the GeoHealth Laboratory work on a range of health and health-related research projects with colleagues here in New Zealand and overseas. Some of the current key research projects include:

Household Crowding and Infectious Disease

The increased risk of infectious disease transmission due to overcrowding in the home is an area that is receiving increased attention. This research examined the effect of neighbourhood level household crowding on hospital admissions for Otitis media (glue ear) among children in NZ.

Results indicated that children living in neighbourhoods with a high level of crowding were more at risk of admission to hospital for Otitis media than those living in relatively un-crowded areas after controlling for known individual and environmental risk factors. This research adds weight to the debate surrounding social housing policy and the population health benefits that can be derived from provision of adequate and affordable housing for vulnerable groups in NZ.

Bluespace and Health

The positive effects of access and exposure to greenspace in the urban environment have included increased activity levels, reduced stress and increased mental wellbeing. Emerging research is examining the effect of living close to or being exposed to bluespace such as rivers, lakes and the coast. Does living near these areas increase the well-being of residents or are less deprived and therefore potentially more healthy individuals more likely to be able to afford to live in these desirable places?

Mental Health Outcomes of the Christchurch Earthquakes over Space and Time

The Christchurch earthquakes were an event which impacted on the entire population of the City and wider region; however the effects were not uniform. Individuals had vastly different experiences at the time of the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, especially on the 22nd of February 2011, while different individuals, families, neighbourhoods and communities were faced with much different patterns of destruction and ongoing trauma in their lives.

Current research aims to examine the relationship between the mental well-being and exposure to earthquake-related impacts in post-earthquakes Christchurch. Particular emphasis is placed on exploring whether the city has been negatively impacted as a whole or if different groups are suffering more greatly due to their exposure and damage to their home environment and community.

Measuring the built environment for influencing travel behaviour and health outcomes

A recent trend in the literature has been on investigating the effects of the built environment on active travel behaviour and related health outcomes.  Research to date has focused mainly on walkability and to a lesser extent bikeability of the built environment.  However, other modes of transport commonly used in daily life such as public transport and car use have received less attention.

One of the main aims of this research is to build on previous research and create GIS based indices of walkability, bikeability, public transport-ability and drive-ability for neighbourhoods in two cities in New Zealand: Auckland and Wellington.  A second aim is to assess how these indices relate to active transport behaviours and health outcomes.

These indices may be used by city planners and policy makers alike in deciding where to situate neighbourhood and community resources as well as identify areas that can be developed to promote more active forms of transport. It is also important for health research to inform why residents of some neighbourhoods actively engage in physical activity in their local environment while others do not.

Spatial microsimulation modeling

Spatial Microsimulation is a quantitative geographical technique used to create simulated data by combining, or merging various datasets to populate and therefore create a new synthetic population that is as close as possible to the `real’ population with an inbuilt geography.