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Geographical Detectors-Based Health Risk Assessment and its Application in the Neural Tube Defects Study of the Heshun Region, China

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Physical environment, man-made pollution, nutrition and their mutual interactions can be major causes of human diseases. These disease determinants have distinct spatial distributions across geographical units, so that their adequate study involves the investigation of the associated geographical strata. We propose four geographical detectors based on spatial variation analysis of the geographical strata to assess the environmental risks of health: the risk detector indicates where the risk areas are; the factor detector identifies factors that are responsible for the risk; the ecological detector discloses relative importance between the factors; and the interaction detector reveals whether the risk factors interact or lead to disease independently. In a real-world study, the primary physical environment (watershed, lithozone and soil) was found to strongly control the neural tube defects (NTD) occurrences in the Heshun region (China). Basic nutrition (food) was found to be more important than man-made pollution (chemical fertilizer) in the control of the spatial NTD pattern. Ancient materials released from geological faults and subsequently spread along slopes dramatically increase the NTD risk. These findings constitute valuable input to disease intervention strategies in the region of interest.
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Keywords: Birth risk; Determinants; Disease; Geographical detectors; Spatial consistence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Geographic Sciences & Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China 2: Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiamen 361003, China 3: Department of Geography, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-4493 4: Beijing Institute of Paediatrics, Beijing, 100012, China 5: Institute of Population Science, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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