The use of GIS in health research

A recently described fundamental problem in studies examining the effects of area-based attributes on individual behavior is the Uncertain Geographic Context Problem (UGCoP). The UGCoP states that findings of the effects of area-based attributes (e.g. green in the environment) on individual behavior (e.g. physical activity) could be affected by how the units are geographically delineated and to what extent these areal units deviate from the “true causally relevant” geographic context. Individual behavior is influenced by the environmental context of their neighborhood. However, both in space and time, there are contextual uncertainties of this neighborhood, because of people’s time-activity patterns. To counter the UGCoP, the spatiotemporal dynamics of both people and their neighbourhoods must be taken into account. This can be achieved using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) data. The aim of this research is to study possible solutions for the UGCoP. This will be done using several case studies as research strategy. Each case study represents a certain aspect of the UGCoP and offers possibilities for future research to limit this contextual problem.

Research units

Staff members


  • Proximus

  • VITO