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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 Aug;9(8):2601-7. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9082601. Epub 2012 Jul 25.

Field validation of food service listings: a comparison of commercial and online geographic information system databases.

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  • 1Department of Community Health & Epidemiology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada.


Many studies examining the food retail environment rely on geographic information system (GIS) databases for location information. The purpose of this study was to validate information provided by two GIS databases, comparing the positional accuracy of food service places within a 1 km circular buffer surrounding 34 schools in Ontario, Canada. A commercial database (InfoCanada) and an online database (Yellow Pages) provided the addresses of food service places. Actual locations were measured using a global positioning system (GPS) device. The InfoCanada and Yellow Pages GIS databases provided the locations for 973 and 675 food service places, respectively. Overall, 749 (77.1%) and 595 (88.2%) of these were located in the field. The online database had a higher proportion of food service places found in the field. The GIS locations of 25% of the food service places were located within approximately 15 m of their actual location, 50% were within 25 m, and 75% were within 50 m. This validation study provided a detailed assessment of errors in the measurement of the location of food service places in the two databases. The location information was more accurate for the online database, however, when matching criteria were more conservative, there were no observed differences in error between the databases.


built environment; field validation; food service place databases

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