A systematic review of the application of spatial analysis in pharmacoepidemiologic research

Aletta Dijkstra, Eelko Hak, Fanny Janssen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: Although current reviews of the use of spatial analysis in general epidemiologic research illustrate an important and well-established role in exploring and predicting health, its application has not been reviewed in the subspecialty field of pharmacoepidemiology.

METHODS: We systematically reviewed the scientific literature to assess to what extent spatial analysis has been applied in pharmacoepidemiologic research and explored its potential added value.

RESULTS: A systematic search in PubMed and Embase/MEDLINE yielded 823 potentially relevant articles; 45 articles met our criteria for review. The studies were reviewed on study objective, applied spatial methods and units of analysis, and author-reported added value of the geographic approach used. Of the 45 included studies, 34 (76%) reported a geographic research objective. Comparative spatial methods were most often used (n = 25; 56%). Eleven studies used spatial statistics (32%); cluster analysis (n = 5) and aggregate data analysis (n = 4) being most common. Mapping was done in 15 studies (33%). The most common added value reported was to aid the planning of health policies and interventions (n = 24; 53%). A minority of pharmacoepidemiologic studies used a geographic approach and the applied methods were less advanced compared with the broader field of epidemiology.

CONCLUSIONS: Further advancements are needed to incorporate currently available spatial techniques to impact health care planning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-514
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Epidemiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2013


  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Pharmacoepidemiology
  • Research
  • Spatial Analysis

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