Winter Is Coming: A Socio-Environmental Monitoring and Spatiotemporal Modelling Approach for Better Understanding a Respiratory Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a progressive lung disease affecting the respiratory function of every sixth New Zealander and over 300 million people worldwide. In this paper, we explored how the combination of social, demographical and environmental conditions (represented by increased winter air pollution) affected hospital admissions due to COPD in an urban area of Christchurch (NZ). We juxtaposed the hospitalisation data with dynamic air pollution data and census data to investigate the spatiotemporal patterns of hospital admissions. Spatial analysis identified high-risk health hot spots both overall and season specific, exhibiting higher rates in winter months not solely due to air pollution, but rather as a result of its combination with other factors that initiate deterioration of breathing, increasing impairments and lead to the hospitalisation of COPD patients. From this we found that socioeconomic deprivation and air pollution, followed by the age and ethnicity structure contribute the most to the increased winter hospital admissions. This research shows the continued importance of including both individual (composition) and area level (composition) factors when examining and analysing disease patterns.