Modeling environmental exposure to air pollution and related health effects: an activity-space approach

Authors: Chang Zhao*, NORC at the University of Chicago, Ned English, NORC at the University of Chicago, Kevin L Brown, NORC at the University of Chicago
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: Environmental exposure, Air pollution, Activity space, Health effects, Urban areas
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Human exposure to air pollution in urban areas is subject to considerable spatial variability. New developments in sensor and mobile technology enable researchers to quantify household exposure to air pollution at fine scales, taking into account unique individual movement patterns. Activity spaces were derived from the first wave of the Chicago Health and Activity in Real-Time (CHART) project, in which demographics of participants, self-reported health and GPS tracking data were collected from 450 community-residing older adults in 10 Chicago neighborhoods for over 7 days. We modeled environmental exposure based on ambient air pollutant concentrations interpolated from the Array of Things (AoT) sensors deployed across metro Chicago. We then assessed how environmental inequality may be a source of disparities in older adults’ respiratory and overall health, controlling for variation in personal health behaviors such as smoking, length of residence in neighborhood, and individual socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. Finally, we compared models based on exposure estimated at 3 spatial scales (1) at the respondent’s home address, (2) in respondents’ home neighborhood and (3) within respondent’s daily activity space in order to examine how such relationships may be affected by specific environmental contexts and definitions. We argue that characterizing the space within which people move during the course of their day-to-day activities could provide new insights into environmental exposure and associated health effects.

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