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Integration of Spatial and Social Network Analysis in Disease Transmission Studies


Emch, Michael E.; Root, Elisabeth Dowling; Giebultowicz, Sophia; Ali, Mohammad; Perez-Heydrich, Carolina; & Yunus, Mohammad (2012). Integration of Spatial and Social Network Analysis in Disease Transmission Studies. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102(5), 1004-1015. PMCID: PMC3806718


This study presents a case study of how social network and spatial analytical methods can be used simultaneously for disease transmission modeling. The article first reviews strategies employed in previous studies and then offers the example of transmission of two bacterial diarrheal diseases in rural Bangladesh. The goal is to understand how diseases vary socially above and beyond the effects of the local neighborhood context. Patterns of cholera and shigellosis incidence are analyzed in space and within kinship-based social networks in Matlab, Bangladesh. Data include a spatially referenced longitudinal demographic database that consists of approximately 200,000 people and laboratory-confirmed cholera and shigellosis cases from 1983 to 2003. Matrices are created of kinship ties among households using a complete network design and distance matrices are also created to model spatial relationships. Moran's I statistics are calculated to measure clustering within both social and spatial matrices. Combined spatial effects and spatial disturbance models are built to simultaneously analyze spatial and social effects while controlling for local environmental context. Results indicate that cholera and shigellosis always cluster in space and only sometimes within social networks. This suggests that the local environment is most important for understanding transmission of both diseases, although kinship-based social networks also influence their transmission. Simultaneous spatial and social network analysis can help us better understand disease transmission and this study offers several strategies on how.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Annals of the Association of American Geographers


Emch, Michael E.
Root, Elisabeth Dowling
Giebultowicz, Sophia
Ali, Mohammad
Perez-Heydrich, Carolina
Yunus, Mohammad