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New high-detail atlas offers tool to explore local environment and health
Date:4/24/2014

Researchers have launched a detailed atlas with environment and health maps at a fine scale across England and Wales.

Produced by the UK Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU), part of the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment & Health based at Imperial College London, the open-access atlas allows researchers, policy makers and members of the public to study the geographical pattern of 14 diseases and conditions such as lung cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, leukaemia and low birth weight. Alongside this it provides maps of geographical variations of selected environmental agents such as air pollution, sunshine and pesticides.

This is the first time in the UK that researchers have produced these maps at such high spatial resolution. By inputting a postcode to the online version of the atlas, users can zoom into a neighbourhood (around 6,000 people) and toggle between the health and environment maps for that local area. Health maps provide an indication of the health risk for the area relative to the average for England and Wales but do not represent the risk for an individual living in that area. A companion print version, with more detailed interpretive text and statistics, is being published by Oxford University Press.

Simply comparing the health and environment maps will not enable people to conclude there is a causal link between a specific environmental agent and a health condition, but it can highlight areas for future research. For example, the atlas shows that skin cancer risk is greatest in southwest England even though sunshine duration is highest in southeast England. This suggests that despite a lower level of sunlight in the southwest people may be more exposed, which could trigger further research into behavioural differences between the areas to explain this variation.

This atlas is the first in the UK to adjust for both age and deprivation as well as making statistical allowance if numbers of cases are very sm
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Contact: Franca Davenport
f.davenport@imperial.ac.uk
44-020-759-42198
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert  

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