Health research needs more comprehensive accessibility measures: Integrating time and transport modes from open data

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Abstract

Background: In this paper, we demonstrate why and how both temporality and multimodality should be integrated in health related studies that include accessibility perspective, in this case healthy food accessibility. We provide evidence regarding the importance of using multimodal spatio-temporal accessibility measures when conducting research in urban contexts and propose a methodological approach for integrating different travel modes and temporality to spatial accessibility analyses. We use the Helsinki metropolitan area (Finland) as our case study region to demonstrate the effects of temporality and modality on the results. Methods: Spatial analyses were carried out on 250 m statistical grid squares. We measured travel times between the home location of inhabitants and open grocery stores providing healthy food at 5 p.m., 10 p.m., and 1 a.m. using public transportation and private cars. We applied the so-called door-to-door approach for the travel time measurements to obtain more realistic and comparable results between travel modes. The analyses are based on open access data and publicly available open-source tools, thus similar analyses can be conducted in urban regions worldwide. Results: Our results show that both time and mode of transport have a prominent impact on the outcome of the analyses; thus, understanding the realities of accessibility in a city may be very different according to the setting of the analysis used. In terms of travel time, there is clear variation in the results at different times of the day. In terms of travel mode, our results show that when analyzed in a comparable manner, public transport can be an even faster mode than a private car to access healthy food, especially in central areas of the city where the service network is dense and public transportation system is effective. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that time and transport modes are essential components when modeling health-related accessibility in urban environments. Neglecting them from spatial analyses may lead to overly simplified or even erroneous images of the realities of accessibility. Hence, there is a risk that health related planning and decisions based on simplistic accessibility measures might cause unwanted outcomes in terms of inequality among different groups of people.

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APA

Tenkanen, H., Saarsalmi, P., Järv, O., Salonen, M., & Toivonen, T. (2016). Health research needs more comprehensive accessibility measures: Integrating time and transport modes from open data. International Journal of Health Geographics, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12942-016-0052-x

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