Researchers have launched a detailed atlas with environment and health maps at a fine scale across England and Wales.
Produced by the UK Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU), part of the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment & Health based at Imperial College London, the open-access atlas allows researchers, policy makers and members of the public to study the geographical pattern of 14 diseases and conditions such as lung cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, leukaemia and low birth weight. Alongside this it provides maps of geographical variations of selected environmental agents such as air pollution, sunshine and pesticides.
This is the first time in the UK that researchers have produced these maps at such high spatial resolution. By inputting a postcode to the online version of the atlas, users can zoom into a neighbourhood (around 6,000 people) and toggle between the health and environment maps for that local area.
This atlas is the first in the UK to adjust for both age and deprivation as well as making statistical allowance if numbers of cases are very small. These adjustments help users to explore the geographical patterns of health risk that aren’t just the result of ageing populations or poverty.
Looking across all health conditions there are 33 wards that show more consistent patterns of lower relative health risks compared to only eight at the higher end of health risk. Those areas that appear to have the lowest relative risk are in central London, North Norfolk, parts of Suffolk, and Brighton & Hove. The areas with the higher relative risk tend to be in the North West, parts of Yorkshire and South Wales.
Some conditions show a lot of geographical variation that can’t be explained by deprivation or ageing. Examples are lung cancer, skin cancer, liver cancer, chronic pulmonary disease (a combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema) and mesothelioma (a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos). In particular the risks for respiratory problems, such as lung cancer and chronic pulmonary disease are worse in urban areas. Risks of heart disease mortality are predominantly higher in the north of the country. However, the relative risks of breast cancer, prostate cancer, leukaemia, brain cancer, still births and low birth weight are more similar across Wales and England.
For full details about the project, and development of the maps, click here.