Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 84, Issue 4, pp 591–603 | Cite as

Deprivation Indices, Population Health and Geography: An Evaluation of the Spatial Effectiveness of Indices at Multiple Scales

  • Nadine SchuurmanEmail author
  • Nathaniel Bell
  • James R. Dunn
  • Lisa Oliver


Area-based deprivation indices (ABDIs) have become a common tool with which to investigate the patterns and magnitude of socioeconomic inequalities in health. ABDIs are also used as a proxy for individual socioeconomic status. Despite their widespread use, comparably less attention has been focused on their geographic variability and practical concerns surrounding the Modifiable Area Unit Problem (MAUP) than on the individual attributes that make up the indices. Although scale is increasingly recognized as an important factor in interpreting mapped results among population health researchers, less attention has been paid specifically to ABDI and scale. In this paper, we highlight the effect of scale on indices by mapping ABDIs at multiple census scales in an urban area. In addition, we compare self-rated health data from the Canadian Community Health Survey with ABDIs at two census scales. The results of our analysis confirm the influence of spatial extent and scale on mapping population health—with potential implications for health policy implementation and resource distribution.


Deprivation indices MAUP Population health Scale. 



This research was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grant (#149353).


: Analysis using the Canadian Community Health Survey (Cycle 2.1, 2003) was based on the Master File held at the Statistics Canada British Columbia Interuniversity Research Data Centre, Vancouver, Canada. Computations using these data were prepared and conducted by Lisa Oliver. The responsibility for the use and interpretation of these data is solely that of the authors. The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not represent the views of Statistics Canada.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nadine Schuurman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nathaniel Bell
    • 1
  • James R. Dunn
    • 2
  • Lisa Oliver
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Research on Inner City Health, St. Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada

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