Spatially varying effects of measured confounding variables on disease risk

Chih Chieh Wu, Yun Hsuan Chu, Sanjay Shete, Chien Hsiun Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The presence of considerable spatial variability in incidence intensity suggests that risk factors are unevenly distributed in space and influence the geographical disease incidence distribution and pattern. As most human common diseases that challenge investigators are complex traits and as more factors associated with increased risk are discovered, statistical spatial models are needed that investigate geographical variability in the association between disease incidence and confounding variables and evaluate spatially varying effects on disease risk related to known or suspected risk factors. Information on geography that we focus on is geographical disease clusters of peak incidence and paucity of incidence. Methods: We proposed and illustrated a statistical spatial model that incorporates information on known or hypothesized risk factors, previously detected geographical disease clusters of peak incidence and paucity of incidence, and their interactions as covariates into the framework of interaction regression models. The spatial scan statistic and the generalized map-based pattern recognition procedure that we recently developed were both considered for geographical disease cluster detection. The Freeman-Tukey transformation was applied to improve normality of distribution and approximately stabilize the variance in the model. We exemplified the proposed method by analyzing data on the spatial occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) with confounding variables of race and gender in North Carolina. Results: The analysis revealed the presence of spatial variability in the association between SIDS incidence and race. We differentiated spatial effects of race on SIDS incidence among previously detected geographical disease clusters of peak incidence and incidence paucity and areas outside the geographical disease clusters, determined by the spatial scan statistic and the generalized map-based pattern recognition procedure. Our analysis showed the absence of spatial association between SIDS incidence and gender. Conclusion: The application to the SIDS incidence data demonstrates the ability of our proposed model to estimate spatially varying associations between disease incidence and confounding variables and distinguish spatially related risk factors from spatially constant ones, providing valuable inference for targeted environmental and epidemiological surveillance and management, risk stratification, and thorough etiologic studies of disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number45
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Computer Science
  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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