A Conceptual Roadmap for Incorporating Place into Quantitative Health Research

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Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science 2020 Annual Meeting

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As evidence of the relationship between neighborhood environments and health mounts, more public health researchers are becoming interested in incorporating place-based measures and analysis in their examination of population health and health inequities. Given the expansive literature of place and health spanning across disciplines such as geography, sociology, and epidemiology, it can be challenging for researchers new to this area to effectively situate the place context in their work. We developed a roadmap to guide public health researchers through the conceptual and methodological stages of incorporating various dimensions of place into their quantitative health research. Based on our literature review of the breadth of work on place and health, the conceptual roadmap poses the following three questions to guide researchers considering incorporating place into their work: 1. “WHY?”: this question asks the researcher to formulate the motivating questions for assessing place and health; 2. “WHAT?”: this question guides the researcher in identifying the relevant place-based characteristics and specifying their link to health in accordance with their questions; and 3. “HOW?”: this question clarifies the researcher’s approach in measuring the identified characteristics and quantifying their effect on health. We applied this roadmap to three place and health research papers to illuminate its utility for guiding researchers during the design, implementation, and analysis stages. We conclude with recommendations for conducting rigorous place effects research that can aide in improving population health and addressing health inequities.


Public Health and Recreation