Neighbourhoods and Health in New Zealand

This New Zealand-based research sought to better understand the role of neighbourhoods in shaping local variations in health. In phase one of the research (2004-07) we i) used GIS to measure access to a range of community resource at the neighbourhood-level; ii) measured social fragmentation of urban neighbourhoods; iii) examined the association of neighbourhood community resource access, social fragmentation and social capital with morbidity and mortality. Geographic Information System (GIS) methods were used to successfully map neighbourhood access to community resources. These measures were then linked to health survey data for health analyses. Many publications have resulted on the association of social properties of neighbourhoods and community resource access with mortality and health (see below).

In phase two of the project (2008-11), we are focusing on physical activity (PA) in and beyond neighbourhoods, using in-depth qualitative and quantitative research methods by collaborating with the Understanding the Relationship between Activity and Neighbourhoods (URBAN) research project. The Neighbourhoods and Health – URBAN collaboration aims “to determine strengths of association between detailed measures of neighbourhood built environment with PA and body size measures in adults and children, based on data collected according to a common protocol in the international collaborative study”. The research samples adults and children living in diverse neighbourhoods located in four New Zealand cities (North Shore, Waitakere, Wellington, and Christchurch).  We will be using PA as a case study of understanding how environmental factors interact with individual factors to become intermediary pathways to inequalities – both as drivers and as part of the solution.


Hiscock R, Pearce J, Blakely T, Witten K, 2008. Is neighbourhood access to health care provision associated with individual-level utilisation and satisfaction? Health Services Research 43, 2183-2200.

Pearce J, Blakely T, Witten K, Bartie P, 2007. Neighborhood deprivation and access to fast food retailing: a national study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 32, 375-382.

Pearce J, Day P, Witten K, 2008. Neighbourhood provision of food and alcohol retailing and social deprivation in urban New Zealand. Urban Policy and Research 26, 213-227.

Pearce J, Hiscock R, Blakely T, Witten K, 2008. The contextual effects of neighbourhood access to supermarkets and convenience stores on individual fruit and vegetable consumption. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 62, 198-200.

Pearce J, Hiscock R, Blakely T, Witten K, 2009. A national study of the association between neighbourhood access to fast food outlets and the diet and weight of local residents. Health and Place 15, 193-197.

Pearce J, Mason K, Hiscock R, Day P, 2008. A national study of neighbourhood access to gambling opportunities and individual gambling behaviour. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 62, 862-868.

Pearce J, Witten K, Bartie P, 2006, Neighbourhoods and health: a GIS approach to measuring community resource accessibility, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 60, 389-395.

Pearce J, Witten K, Hiscock R, Blakely T, 2007. Are socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods deprived of health-related community resources? International Journal of Epidemiology 36, 348-355.

Pearce J, Witten K, Hiscock R, Blakely T, 2008. Regional and urban-rural variations in the association of neighbourhood deprivation with community resource access: a national study. Environment and Planning A 40, 2469–2489.

Witten K, Hiscock R, Pearce J, Blakely T, 2008. Neighbourhood access to public open space and the physical activity of residents: a national study. Preventive Medicine 47, 299-303.

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