The use of a geographic information system (GIS) and satellite remote sensing for small-area mortality analysis
Holt, James Brian
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A geographic information system (GIS) and satellite remote sensing were used to analyze all-cause mortality at the census tract level for Metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, 1995-1999. The GIS was used to store, analyze, and display mortality data and sociodemographic and physical environmental variables, which were hypothesized to be causally-related to mortality. Satellite remote sensing was used to derive land-use/land-cover statistics for the study area and to facilitate dasymetric computation of population densities, which were used to areally-interpolate census data, to account for census geography changes, 1980-2000. Two hypotheses were tested: 1) the spatial distribution of selected area-level socio-demographic and physical environmental variables, in 1990, is significantly related to the spatial distribution of all-cause mortality, 1995-1999; and 2) the process of urbanization in Metropolitan Atlanta, 1980-2000, has resulted in a more dispersed spatial pattern of area-level variables significantly associated with all-cause mortality. Three variables were found, through multiple regression analysis, to be significantly related (p < .01) to the pattern of all-cause mortality in metropolitan Atlanta, 1995-1999: the percentage of blacks in the total population; the percentage of population over age 25 with high school diplomas or equivalent; and the percentage of total land area that was urbanized; with the expected number of deaths per tract as a control variable. Composite indices of these explanatory variables were mapped for 1980, 1990, and 2000. Areas with positive index values (predictive of higher mortality risk) were generally concentrated in the inner portions of the metropolitan area, corresponding to the traditional Central Business District (CBD) and its immediate surroundings. Areas with temporally increasing index values were initially in the CBD (1980-1990), but moved outward coincident with general patterns of suburban growth (1990-2000). Areas with decreasing index values (predictive of lower mortality risk) also expanded outward. Yet, in the 1990s there was a backfill of decreasing index values in many portions of the CBD. These results suggest a suburbanization/gentrification-induced spatio-temporal dispersion of factors significantly related to all-cause mortality in Atlanta.