Te Taiwhenua o te Hauora | GeoHealth Laboratory

GeoHealth Laboratory

Te Taiwhenua o te Hauora | GeoHealth Laboratory undertakes applied research in the areas of health geography, spatial epidemiology and Geographical Information Systems. In particular, work in the GeoHealth Laboratory focuses upon how the local and national contexts shape health outcomes and health inequalities.

Who we are

The Minister of Health, Hon Annette King, launched The GeoHealth Laboratory. This happened at a conference in Wellington in November 2004. The GeoHealth Laboratory is a joint venture between the University of Canterbury and the Ministry of Health. The aim of the collaboration is to build a strategic partnership between the parties around health geography, spatial epidemiology and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Further, we aim to increase research capacity and research outputs in the health and GIS academic sectors. The collaboration provides a resource that is unique in the Southern hemisphere.

What we do

The GeoHealth Laboratory undertakes applied research in the areas of health geography, spatial epidemiology and GIS. In particular, work in the GeoHealth Laboratory focuses upon how the local and national contexts shape health outcomes and health inequalities. Research has focused on how both micro and macro level process help to shape the health of New Zealanders. Our current work has considered how various characteristics of local neighbourhoods influence health outcomes and health-related behaviours. These projects include the effect of community resource access (such as access to parks, food stores and healthcare provision) on health inequalities; the role of deprivation and rurality in influencing suicide rates; environmental justice and air pollution; and the importance of income inequality and macro-level process on inequalities in life expectancy (visit our Publications page for more details). 


Get connected

There are a number of staff employed by and associated with the collaboration, who work on a range of research projects that are concerned with the social and environmental determinants of health and healthcare. In addition, the GeoHealth Lab provides resources for postgraduate students to work in the GeoHealth Laboratory. Each year a number of postgraduate scholarships are available to suitably qualified students (see "Courses and Study" website or contact Prof. Simon Kingham (simon.kingham@canterbury.ac.nz).

  • GHL_team2018

    GHL Team 2018

    GeoHealth Laboratory Team in 2018

Master of Spatial Analysis for Public Health 

The new Master of Spatial Analysis for Public Health (MSAPH) combines expertise on public health issues with GIS technologies. Spatial health data is fundamental to assess hazards from environmental exposure and the impact of health intervention towards the well-being of communities.

Geospatial analysts can use spatial data to determine important health demographics such as disease causation and spread prevention, disaster risk factors, genetic disease likelihood, physical and mental behavioural trends, and economic effect. These issues are on the rise and experts are needed globally. For more information visit the website.

Interested students are encouraged to contact: Dr Malcolm Campbell (Program Director) malcolm.campbell@canterbury.ac.nz

Recommended Courses

Postgraduate 400 level courses in Geographic Information Science, The Professtional Master of Geospatial Science and Technology. One course of particular relevance is GISC411: Spatial Analytics for Health.

Honours courses in Health, Well-Being and Environment (Geog325) and Well-Being, Community and Place (GEOG401).


*** For PhD and Masters scholarship information visit our "Scholarships and Internships" website ***


GeoHealth Lab Staff

Simon Kingham

Human Geography,Chief Science Advisor, MoT
Beatrice Tinsley Rm 308
Internal Phone: 94064

Malcolm Campbell

Associate Professor
Human Geography
Beatrice Tinsley Rm 309
Internal Phone: 94181

Jesse Wiki

Research Manager, Postdoctoral Fellow
Internal Phone: 90911

Lukas Marek

Postdoctoral Fellow
Ernest Rutherford 261
Internal Phone: 94344

Matt Hobbs

Senior Research Fellow (adjunct)
Manawa 405G
Internal Phone: 90198


Visitors to The GeoHealth Laboratory

The Department of Geography, UC, has hosted a number of visiting Erskine Fellows and others with research interests in health geography, who have collaborated with staff of the GeoHealth Laboratory in research projects. See publications.

  • Prof. Philippe Apparicio (INRS, Montreal, Canada)
  • Prof. Graham Moon (University of Portsmouth, UK)
  • Prof. Danny Dorling (University of Sheffield, UK)
  • Prof. Graham Bentham (University of East Anglia, UK)
  • Prof. Robin Flowerdew (University of St Andrews, UK)
  • Prof. Robin Haynes (University of East Anglia, UK)
  • Prof. Michael Emch (University of North Caroline, USA)
  • Dr Richard Mitchel (University of Edinburgh, UK)


Former Postgraduate Students

Over the years, we had a number of postgraduate students working in the GeoHealth Laboratory:

  • Kurt Janssen (PHI intern) - MoH, MfE, ESRI (California), Interpret (ChCh)
  • Katherine Tisch (Masters) – ESR, GeoHealth Lab, Edinburgh Uni
  • Erin Holmes (Masters) - MoH (Wellington)
  • Kate McPherson (Masters) - CCC (Christchurch)
  • Laura Miller (PhD) - (AAG ‘best thesis’ winner 2008), Researcher (Perth, Aus)
  • Jeff Wilson (PhD) – Harvard Uni (postdoc), Dean, Huston-Tillotson Uni, US
  • Chris Bowie (Masters) – Researcher, Opus (Wellington)
  • Sam Valentine (Masters) - Project Manager, Appian Group (Sydney)
  • Matt Willoughby (Masters) - Canterbury District Health Board
  • Kimberley Reed (Masters GIS) – GIS Analyst, Marlborough Lines Ltd
  • Dan Nutsford (Masters GIS) – GIS Analyst, Auckland Council
  • Jayden MacRae (Masters) – CEO, Patients First, Wellington
  • Nick Brunsdon (Masters) – Economic Analyst, CDC, Christchurch
  • Daniel Hogg (PhD) – GIS professional, Germany



Staff associated with the GeoHealth Laboratory work on a range of health and health-related research projects with colleagues here in New Zealand and overseas.

Research Projects Work Program 2018/19

Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting people against harmful diseases. The rate of childhood immunisation has increased over time and are now declining. Will targeted interventions be effective in raising the immunisation rate and reducing inequities?
This project aims to inform the Government’s priority on improving child well-being. We will analyse the group of children that are not immunised with those that are. We are planning to identify changes and trends over time and space. The results should lead to the identification of groups of children and the areas they live in. This will show locations that will benefit from targeted interventions.
Birth rates across New Zealand are not uniform. The provision of midwifery services is not necessarily aligned with birth rates. This can lead to women not having access to appropriate and local care during a pregnancy. Hence this can have an impact on future child well-being.
This project will use spatial-temporal analysis to explore maternity health outcomes. Also, in what areas do pregnant woman have difficulty accessing maternity care services? And how do the economic, environmental and social factors differ for those that have difficulty?
This project will contribute to the governments’ key priority on improving child well-being and reducing equity. This is done by highlighting the impact of women having timely access to maternity care services.
This project will determine how where you live and your movement frequency affect life for the people of Lakes DHB. We will focus on Primary Health Organisations (PHO) enrolment, service access/community support, and LTC outcomes/quality of life.
One of the project’s main focuses is the identification of people with limited or irregular interaction with the health services. Reasons such as low-engagement, non-enrolment or transience can play a part. We will also try to identify possible barriers limiting the access to services.
Better access to primary care might lead to a reduction in potentially avoidable hospitalisations (PAH). From 2007, the Ministry of Health identified reducing ASH among children aged 0–4 years in New Zealand as a priority. ASH conditions include, for example, respiratory infections, dental conditions and asthma.
ASH accounts for approximately 30% of all acute and arranged medical and surgical discharges each year. This figure applies to New Zealand children.
A better understanding of ASH rates in relation to healthcare facilities may help inform policy. We will break this down by area-level deprivation, urban classification and ethnicity.
The project results will be of interest for the Ministry of Health contacts. This includes the general managers, the clinical groups, and the stakeholders. As well as everyone involved in the delivery of services.
In New Zealand, the child obesity rate increased from 8% in 2006/07 to 12% in 2016/17. The lifetime cost of obesity is difficult to estimate. Child obesity places a significant burden on health care systems, families, and employers. Non-communicable diseases, for example, showed to impair an individual’s lifetime educational attainment.
It is difficult to see obesity declining when living in built environments that actively encourage weight gain.
Some of these upstream factors, for example the design of the built environment, are not in the control of a child. Therefore it cannot be seen as a result of lifestyle choices by a child.
Previous studies rarely considered aspects of the environment alongside parental risk factors.
This project will investigate the risk of childhood obesity. We are investigating the relationship between the built environment and the parental characteristics. The analysis uses pooled New Zealand Health Survey data.

This project will assist the Protection Regulation and Assurance business unit. We aim to provide statistical information for the physical activity guidelines and justification. This can provide advice on the importance of physical activity to other agencies and Ministers.

Some of the current key research projects include:

The increased risk of infectious disease transmission due to overcrowding in the home is an area that is receiving increased attention. This research examined the effect of neighbourhood level household crowding on hospital admissions for Otitis media (glue ear) among children in NZ.

Results indicated that children living in neighbourhoods with a high level of crowding were more at risk of admission to hospital for Otitis media than those living in relatively un-crowded areas after controlling for known individual and environmental risk factors. This research adds weight to the debate surrounding social housing policy and the population health benefits that can be derived from provision of adequate and affordable housing for vulnerable groups in NZ.

The positive effects of access and exposure to greenspace in the urban environment have included increased activity levels, reduced stress and increased mental wellbeing. Emerging research is examining the effect of living close to or being exposed to bluespace such as rivers, lakes and the coast. Does living near these areas increase the well-being of residents or are less deprived and therefore potentially more healthy individuals more likely to be able to afford to live in these desirable places?

The Christchurch earthquakes were an event which impacted on the entire population of the City and wider region; however the effects were not uniform. Individuals had vastly different experiences at the time of the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, especially on the 22nd of February 2011, while different individuals, families, neighbourhoods and communities were faced with much different patterns of destruction and ongoing trauma in their lives.

Current research aims to examine the relationship between the mental well-being and exposure to earthquake-related impacts in post-earthquakes Christchurch. Particular emphasis is placed on exploring whether the city has been negatively impacted as a whole or if different groups are suffering more greatly due to their exposure and damage to their home environment and community.

A recent trend in the literature has been on investigating the effects of the built environment on active travel behaviour and related health outcomes.  Research to date has focused mainly on walkability and to a lesser extent bikeability of the built environment.  However, other modes of transport commonly used in daily life such as public transport and car use have received less attention.

One of the main aims of this research is to build on previous research and create GIS based indices of walkability, bikeability, public transport-ability and drive-ability for neighbourhoods in two cities in New Zealand: Auckland and Wellington.  A second aim is to assess how these indices relate to active transport behaviours and health outcomes.

These indices may be used by city planners and policy makers alike in deciding where to situate neighbourhood and community resources as well as identify areas that can be developed to promote more active forms of transport. It is also important for health research to inform why residents of some neighbourhoods actively engage in physical activity in their local environment while others do not.