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J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2000 Mar-Apr;10(2):168-87.

Spatiotemporal analysis of environmental exposure-health effect associations.

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Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599-7400, USA.


The goal of this work is to discuss a general methodology for studying associations between environmental exposures and health effect by means of the spatiotemporal random field theory. This theory is the tool of choice for rigorously accounting for important spatiotemporal variations and uncertainties related to exposures and effect. Within the framework of the random field theory, the Bayesian maximum entropy model neatly synthesizes various sources of physical and epidemiological knowledge into spatiotemporal analysis. Therefore, unlike technical statistics, this approach relies on the blending of substantive physical knowledge with powerful mathematical techniques and a coherent rationale. Given the well-founded fact that certain health effects may be caused by environmental exposures, the significance of these exposures is assessed in terms of a criterion that is based on the joint stochastic representation of exposure and health-effect distributions in space/time. In view of this criterion, the strength and consistency of the exposure-effect association are evaluated on the basis of the health-effect predictions that the combined physico-epidemiologic analysis generates in space/time. The main features of the approach are demonstrated by a simulation example and a real case study involving mortality and cold temperatures in North Carolina. The studies demonstrated the practical usefulness of the stochastic human exposure analysis in assessing the exposure-effect association. The results reported here emphasize the links between spatiotemporal models of physical systems and population health-effect distributions, thus suggesting directions for improving the current understanding of quantitative "exposure-health effect" functions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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