Measuring the Food Environment Using Geographic Information Systems: A Methodological Review

UMR INSERM U 557/INRA U 1125/CNAM, University Paris 13, CRNH IdF, Bobigny, France.
Public Health Nutrition (Impact Factor: 2.68). 11/2010; 13(11):1773-85. DOI: 10.1017/S1368980010000753
Source: PubMed


Through a literature review, we investigated the geographic information systems (GIS) methods used to define the food environment and the types of spatial measurements they generate.
Review study.
Searches were conducted in health science databases, including Medline/Pubmed, PsycINFO, Francis and GeoBase. We included studies using GIS-based measures of the food environment published up to 1 June 2008.
Twenty-nine papers were included. Two different spatial approaches were identified. The density approach quantifies the availability of food outlets using the buffer method, kernel density estimation or spatial clustering. The proximity approach assesses the distance to food outlets by measuring distances or travel times. GIS network analysis tools enable the modelling of travel time between referent addresses (home) and food outlets for a given transportation network and mode, and the assumption of travel routing behaviours. Numerous studies combined both approaches to compare food outlet spatial accessibility between different types of neighbourhoods or to investigate relationships between characteristics of the food environment and individual food behaviour.
GIS methods provide new approaches for assessing the food environment by modelling spatial accessibility to food outlets. On the basis of the available literature, it appears that only some GIS methods have been used, while other GIS methods combining availability and proximity, such as spatial interaction models, have not yet been applied to this field. Future research would also benefit from a combination of GIS methods with survey approaches to describe both spatial and social food outlet accessibility as important determinants of individual food behaviours.

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Available from: Christiane Weber, Aug 11, 2015
    • "Due to the abundance of food-mapping literature captured in the USDA ERS review and Charreire et al.'s (2010) methodological review, this review is limited to articles and projects published after 2008. However, the review includes research that utilizes mapping in food justice, food sovereignty, consumption , land use, food choice, food trade, consumer behavior , food safety, urban agriculture, and agricultural systems analysis, topics that were not addressed in the 2009 USDA ERS or Charreire et al. (2010) review. If researchers used GIS software to calculate impact of proximity or density without actually mapping the results (e.g., Dunn et al. 2012), they were not included. "
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    ABSTRACT: Various mapping methodologies have been used to explore complex social, economic, and environmental components of the food system. Planning scholars, geographers, public health officials, and community organizations have created maps to better understand disparities in the food environment. This review provides an analysis of the nature of geographic information systems mapping in scholarly research and web-based food mapping since 2008. Our review of thirty-four journal articles and seventy web-mapping projects covers the purpose, study area, topics, methods, and application of food mapping research and initiatives. Scholars and community stakeholders will benefit from this review of methodologies to inform their research and policy initiatives.
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    • "The bulk of research has described the geographic distribution of various types of food stores as well as the selection, quality, and price of different kinds of food found within them in a single large urban area. 3 There is also research that analyzes customers' and food business proprietors' perceptions of the food environment (Charreire et al. 2010; Reisig and Hobbiss 2000; Zenk et al. 2011). However, most research on healthy food availability focuses on large cities with populations of more than several hundred thousand. "
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    ABSTRACT: This article examines the relationships between neighborhood racial and income composition and healthy food availability. We explore the extent to which physical and social isolation affects healthy food availability for groups marginalized by race and class in a context largely missing from the literature. We use census tract data and five-year estimates from the American Community Survey to produce maps illustrating the patterns of race and income composition in Topeka, Kansas. Included in these maps are data points illustrating the distribution of stores offering healthy foods. We find that, as in the large metro areas analyzed thus far, the distribution of healthy food stores in Topeka is similarly patterned. Blacker (and poorer) neighborhoods tend to have the lowest levels of healthy food availability. We conclude with a discussion of the relevance of this work to the knowledge base regarding food environments and health in the United States.
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    • "Adding to the inconsistency in the literature, the residential neighbourhood buffers employed vary from study to study and range widely in size (Charreire et al., 2010; Leal and Chaix, 2011), and may not represent individuals' own perceptions of where residential neighbourhood boundaries lie, which can differ significantly from objective historical or socioeconomic definitions (Lebel et al., 2007). Mixed findings have emerged from studies examining associations between the food environment and dietary and/or weight outcomes using predetermined buffer techniques to define residential neighbourhoods. "
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    ABSTRACT: Geographic methods have provided insight about food location availability and accessibility in understanding neighbourhood variations in health. However, quantifying exposure to food locations within a pre-defined range of an individual's residence ignores locations outside of the residential neighbourhood encountered in daily life. Global positioning system (GPS) data enables exploration of multiple contextual influences on health. This study defines place in relation to behaviour, employing GPS data to 1) describe adolescent food environments within and outside of the residential buffer, 2) quantify actual food location visits, and 3) explore associations between availability and accessibility of food locations and dietary intake. Adolescents (N=380; ages 12–16), wore GPS loggers for up to seven days. Availability and accessibility of food locations were defined by counts and distances to food locations within a 15-min walk (1 km) of home, as well as within 50 m of an individual's GPS track. We compared the proportion of food locations within the residential buffer to the proportion outside but within the GPS buffer. These proportions were compared to counts and distances to food locations actually visited. We explored associations between food location availability and accessibility with dietary intake variables. Food location availability and accessibility was greater and visits occurred more commonly outside of the residential buffer than within it. Food location availability and accessibility was greater for urban than suburban and rural adolescents. There were no associations between home-based measures of availability and accessibility and dietary intake and only one for GPS-based measures, with greater distance to convenience stores associated with greater fruit and vegetable consumption. This study provides important descriptive information about adolescent exposure to food locations. Findings confirm that traditional home-based approaches overestimate the importance of the neighbourhood food environment, but provide only modest evidence of linkages between the food environment beyond the residential neighbourhood boundary and dietary intake.
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