The socio-spatial neighborhood estimation method: an approach to operationalizing the neighborhood concept.
ABSTRACT The literature on neighborhoods and health highlights the difficulty of operationalizing "neighborhood" in a conceptually and empirically valid manner. Most studies, however, continue to define neighborhoods using less theoretically relevant boundaries, risking erroneous inferences from poor measurement. We review an innovative methodology to address this problem, called the socio-spatial neighborhood estimation method (SNEM). To estimate neighborhood boundaries, researchers used a theoretically informed combination of qualitative GIS and on-the-ground observations in Texas City, Texas. Using data from a large sample, we assessed the SNEM-generated neighborhood units by comparing intra-class correlation coefficients (ICCs) and multi-level model parameter estimates of SNEM-based measures against those for census block groups and regular grid cells. ICCs and criterion-related validity evidence using SF-36 outcome measures indicate that the SNEM approach to operationalization could improve inferences based on neighborhoods and health research.
Article: Toward the next generation of research into small area effects on health: a synthesis of multilevel investigations published since July 1998.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: To map out area effects on health research, this study had the following aims: (1) to inventory multilevel investigations of area effects on self rated health, cardiovascular diseases and risk factors, and mortality among adults; (2) to describe and critically discuss methodological approaches employed and results observed; and (3) to formulate selected recommendations for advancing the study of area effects on health. Overall, 86 studies were inventoried. Although several innovative methodological approaches and analytical designs were found, small areas are most often operationalised using administrative and statistical spatial units. Most studies used indicators of area socioeconomic status derived from censuses, and few provided information on the validity and reliability of measures of exposures. A consistent finding was that a significant portion of the variation in health is associated with area context independently of individual characteristics. Area effects on health, although significant in most studies, often depend on the health outcome studied, the measure of area exposure used, and the spatial scale at which associations are examined.Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 11/2007; 61(10):853-61. · 3.19 Impact Factor
Article: Putting people into place.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Over the past two decades, there has been an explosion of empirical research on neighborhoods and health. However, although the data and approaches owe much to the early contributions of demographers and population scientists, this debt is largely unrecognized. Likewise, challenges posed in the early literature remain largely unanswered. I argue that just as demographers and population scientists were pioneers in the study of neighborhoods and health, they are uniquely poised to lead the field again. Putting people into place means explaining behavior and outcomes in relation to a potentially changing local context. A more dynamic conceptualization is needed that fully incorporates human agency, integrates multiple dimensions of local social and spatial context, develops the necessary longitudinal data, and implements appropriate tools. Diverse approaches with complementary strengths will help surmount the many analytic challenges to studying the dynamics of neighborhoods and health, including agent-based microsimulation models.Demography 12/2007; 44(4):687-703. · 1.93 Impact Factor