Coffee Hour: The salience of place in the study of health and demographic outcomes

Friday, November 22, 2013 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
• At 3:30 p.m. Refreshments are offered in the E. Willard Miller seminar room, 319 Walker Building • At 4:00 p.m. The lecture begins in the John J. Cahir Auditorium, 112 Walker Building

The salience of place in the study of health and demographic outcomes

About the talk

The focus on place in health and demographic research has grown rapidly within the last 15 years with much of the research occurring outside of geography. In this presentation I will briefly examine how different academic disciplines measure place and place exposure. I will draw on my own work (both conceptual and empirical) and collaborations with researchers using a variety of 'tools' (e.g., ethnographic methods, activity logs, and GPS/wireless sensors) in an attempt to argue for the need for greater precision in the measurement of both people and places. In the presentation I will introduce a framework based on the concept of Spatial Polygamy to demonstrate the need to collect new forms of data on human spatial behavior across space and time. The work I present draws on a Time Geography and activity-space research tradition. I will argue that adopting new data/methods will be essential if we are to better understand social inequality in terms of exposure to risks and access to resources; and I will argue that geographers ought to be directly involved in this kind of research.

About the speaker

Stephen MatthewsStephen A. Matthews is an associate professor of sociology, anthropology, and demography and director of the graduate program in Demography with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Geography. His research interests focus on the connections between people and places. He has a long standing interest in spatial demography and the use of GIS and spatial analysis to study population health and health inequality in community contexts. More specifically, he is interested in the distribution of resources, risks, and opportunities and how accessibility and utilization of these resources, risks, and opportunities impact individual health and wellbeing.Matthews has published in several fields — demography, sociology epidemiology, public health, geography — on topics including adolescent risk taking behaviors, physical activity, diet and obesity, residential segregation, neighborhood change, access to health care, health care distrust, cancer screening, infant mortality, mortality, alcohol outlets, crime, and religious landscapes. An important part of his work is an interest in conceptual and methodological issues associated with how neighborhoods are defined and their attributes are measured, and the relevance of these definitions and measures to individual behavior and health outcomes.


Background reading

Spatial Polygamy and Contextual Exposures (SPACEs): Promoting Activity Space Approaches in Research on Place And Health