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7. Health Geography in British Columbia

Introduction

Health geography emerged as a separate sub-discipline of Geography in the mid-1990s out of a desire to return to a study of place and landscape on experiences of health and ill health. It is focused on the experience of health and the role of place including, but not limited to, the study of disease ecology and mapping, health service provisions, therapeutic landscapes, public health policy, health in the workplace, patient experience, experience of disease, experience of disability, geographies of care and responsibility and embodiments of mental (ill) health (Brown, McLafferty, & Moon, 2004). On a multi-scalar perspective, social determinants of health influence the levels of health experienced by populations. These determinants include:

  • Income levels and social status
  • Social support networks
  • Education
  • Employment/working conditions
  • Social environments
  • Physical environments
  • Personal health practices and coping skills
  • Healthy child development
  • Gender
  • Culture

As we have learned in other sections of this book, British Columbians come from a variety of backgrounds and enjoy living in urban, suburban and rural settings. The spatial distribution of people, or where citizens live, will greatly affect their health and access to health care. For example, a person living in an urban area is likely to walk more often than someone living in a rural setting. The air quality will vary from urban to rural settings as well. A person’s health also influences his or her experience of a place. The study of health geography investigates all of these issues.

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