Geographic Information Systems and Science for Cancer Control

Built & Social Environment

Characteristics of the neighborhoods in which people live, work, and go to school are an important element of spatial context. The built and social environments can have a strong influence on people's ability to adopt a healthy lifestyle, including their ability to get adequate exercise, eat healthy foods, and avoid the use of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol.

Why Spatial Context Matters


Spatial context factors include neighborhood walkability and access to parks.

Healthy Diet

Spatial context factors include access to healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.


Spatial context factors include development density, land use mix, the relationship between residence and employment locations, and street accessibility.

Availability of Tobacco, Drugs & Alcohol

Spatial context factors include the presence or absence of smoke free policies and the proximity of tobacco outlets to schools.

Social Environment

Spatial context factors include poverty levels, affordable housing, educational opportunities, and patterns of social engagement.

Crime & Safety

Spatial context factors include crime rates, perceptions of safety and the prevalence of risky sexual behavior.

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