Spatial Point Pattern Analysis and Its Application in Geographical Epidemiology
This paper reviews a number of methods for the exploration and modelling of spatial point patterns with particular reference to geographical epidemiology (the geographical incidence of disease). Such methods go well beyond the conventional 'nearest-neighbour' and 'quadrat' analyses which have little to offer in an epidemiological context because they fail to allow for spatial variation in population density. Correction for this is essential if the aim is to assess the evidence for 'clustering' of cases of disease. We examine methods for exploring spatial variation in disease risk, spatial and space-time clustering, and we consider methods for modelling the raised incidence of disease around suspected point sources of pollution. All methods are illustrated by reference to recent case studies including child cancer incidence, Burkitt's lymphoma, cancer of the larynx and childhood asthma. An Appendix considers a range of possible software environments within which to apply these methods. The links to modern geographical information systems are discussed.