Mapping the Global Burden of Disease project’s Summary Exposure Values by state for 2019

As part of a current project with Calvin Isch and Richard Brown, I’ve been looking at the Global Burden of Disease project’s Summary Exposure Values (SEVs). The SEV is a really useful measure for us, because we’re interested in the extent to which people’s perceptions of risk are associated with objective measures of exposure to health risks. Luckily, the Global Burden of Disease project have done some incredibly detailed work to try to quantify exposures to certain risks.

The GBD describe the SEV as follows:

“A measure of a population’s exposure to a risk factor that takes into account the extent of exposure by risk level and the severity of that risk’s contribution to disease burden. SEV takes the value zero when no excess risk for a population exists and the value one when the population is at the highest level of risk; we report SEV on a scale from 0% to 100% to emphasize that it is risk-weighted prevalence.”

I would recommend this excellent Lancet paper for more details on the construction of this measure.

Since I’m particularly interested in perceptions about uncontrollable mortality risks (risk exposures which are not impacted by individual behaviour), I’ve been using the SEV values for environmental and occupational risks, which is a combined index of those risks not classified by the GBD project as being related to behaviour (see for more on the data).

This all seemed like an excellent excuse to make a new map, this time using Leaflet, an excellent R package, which allows you to create and customise interactive web maps without knowing any JavaScript. Here’s the resulting map. To see the interactive version, please click on the image link and view the map in RPubs, as WordPress won’t allow me to embed it using an iframe.

A map of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Project’s summary exposure values (SEV) by state for the USA in 2019.

Adventures with the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ EPSIG: video & links

I am pleased to say that I have recently joined the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ evolutionary psychiatry special interest group (EPSIG). My first encounter with the group was being invited to give a talk following their AGM (video below). However, I’ve since learned a lot about the group.

The RcPsych EPSIG aims to raise awareness of the value of evolutionary theory to psychiatry, as well as encouraging research on the topic. The group has a fascinating mix of members with a range of expertise, bringing together clinical and academic expertise, across disciplines. They hold talks and host symposia, some of which can be found on their YouTube channel. Their newsletters are also available to all, if you want to read more.

Mapping Census data from Newcastle commuters – update!

People – especially students – get in touch with me on a surprisingly regular basis to ask for the data and shape files I used in my previous post on mapping methods of travel to work in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Unfortunately, since Google discontinued their support for Fusion Tables, people are now unable to download the data and shape files from the maps I created. Never fear! You can find them here.

Link to download KMZ file for the Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs*) within Newcastle upon Tyne**.

Link to download data on methods of travel to work, from the 2011 Census, organised by LSOA**.

Link to download data on methods of travel to work from the 2011 Census, organised by ward* (sorry, but I don’t have a shape at ward level).

*For a guide to administrative geographies, see the ONS page on Census geography.

**This link will take you Dropbox, but you don’t need an account to download the file

Getting other Census and geographies data:

What’s even better than being able to simply download the data from this page? Probably, it’s knowing where to get your own data (especially since the 2011 Census data are about to become outdated). There are couple of really handy websites for accessing Census data and information on UK geographies:

The Nomis website provides a useful portal for accessing census data.

The ONS Open Geography Portal provides a lot of helpful products, including shape files for various geographies.

Hopefully these resources will help you to get your projects done. Happy mapping!

A map from the original project, showing the percentage of residents in each LSOA travelling to work by bicycle (in shades of green), with all data represented in the pop-out bubbles in the interactive version.

ISEMPH 2021 – online meeting

I’m on the programme for the excellent International Society for Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health‘s annual meeting again this year. As usual, I expect the conference will be superb. However, things will be a little different this year, as the whole event will be virtual:

Although I understand that many people are suffering from “Zoom fatigue”, an online conference offers a number of fresh advantages. It becomes easier for people from all over the world to participate without time, cost, or carbon footprint concerns becoming barriers. We can be innovative about our scheduling too. Having some pre-recorded talks and posters available in advance of the conference will mean more time to interact with each other on the day. More interaction can mean more ideas, more fun, and more potential for collaboration. Another advantage of having some pre-recorded talks: you can pause, rewind, and watch again! No more wondering if you’re asking a silly question because you didn’t quite hear something that was said earlier on in the talk. Equally, if the topic of the talk isn’t quite as you expected, you can stop watching without fear of disrupting others in the audience. This year’s meeting will enjoy all these advantages, plus some of the buzz of a live event with some live talks and Q&A sessions.

To really boost the interactivity of the conference, we’ll also be running our first ever Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health Grand Challenges! Conference delegates can sign up to work in virtual teams to address the big questions and challenges facing medicine and public health today, with topics ranging from ageing to tuberculosis. The aim of these events is to encourage new connections and collaborations, and to spark innovation in the EMPH community. Check out the ISEMPH-2021 website for further details:

Delegates at the Inaugural ISEMPH meeting in 2015, in Tempe, Arizona.
Delegates at the Inaugural ISEMPH meeting in 2015, in Tempe, Arizona

Shape file for Newcastle upon Tyne LSOAs

A little while ago, I was contacted by someone who was looking for a shape file for the Newcastle upon Tyne area, as they wanted to map some data as part of a research project.

It occurred to me that other people might be looking for such a file since, back when I made my maps of transport usage in Newcastle (see previous blog), I’d had to source an ONS shape file of all the LSOAs in England and then manually edit it down to only those contained within the Newcastle area. Should you wish to avoid doing all that work yourself, here is the file!

It is a KML file showing the Lower Level Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in Newcastle Upon Tyne (2011 boundaries). Click here to download.

Example map, based on the KML file provided above, showing percentage of people walking to work by LSOA.

Mapping Census data from Newcastle commuters

In my current Research Associate role at the Institute for Health and Society, I’m working with a lot of data on travel behaviour, traffic flow and traffic accidents. As part of this, I’ve been having fun mapping Census data on how people travel to work. Since the data are publicly available, it would be a shame not to share some of the interactive maps I’ve built. So here they are. You can open the publicly available interactive maps by clicking on the screenshots below.

The data are organised by Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOAs – read more about ONS geographies here) and the maps were built using Google Fusion Tables, by uploading a CSV of the 2011 Census data on Travel to Work and combining it with a KML file of the boundaries of the LSOAs in Newcastle Upon Tyne, which I created myself. For an introduction to how to create maps using Fusion Tables, go here.

Map 1 – people travelling to work by bus

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those living within a few miles of Newcastle city centre, but not in it, were most likely to travel to work by bus. The proportion of people travelling by bus also tends to be higher in the more economically deprived parts of the city.

Percent travelling by bus


Map 2 – people travelling to work by underground, metro, light rail or tram

No big surprises here. A greater proportion of people reported travelling to work by underground, metro, light rail or tram in the LSOAs with, or near, metro stations.

Percent travelling by metro

Map 3 – people travelling to work by train

As with the other maps, the raw numbers are small, but the greater proportions of the available commuter populations are travelling by train in those LSOAs near central station.

Percent travelling by train

Map 4 – people travelling to work by taxi

Once more, the numbers are small, but I was surprised to see that anyone at all travels to work by taxi. Furthermore, there was a higher proportion of self-reported taxi commuters in the more economically deprived areas of Newcastle. Perhaps these people are taxi drivers?

Percent travelling by taxi

Map 5 – people travelling to work by motorbike

Bikers don’t appear to be numerous in Newcastle, nor does their distribution take on a discernible pattern. However, the biker stronghold of Newcastle seems to be in Coxlodge, where the proportion of people who report getting to work by motorbike reaches its zenith at 1.3%.

Percent travelling by motorbike

Map 6 – people travelling to work by car

The car commute is, of course, the most common. The numbers are high and increase with distance from the city centre, while driving sees its nadir at 17.07%, in the LSOA next to Newcastle Central Station.

Percent travelling by car

Map 7 – people travelling to work as passengers in cars

People getting to work in other peoples’ cars are fewer than those driving themselves.  Interestingly, the patterns also appear to be different, with a higher proportion of car passengers coming from LSOAs at intermediate distances from the city centre.

Percent travelling as car passengers

Map 8 – people who get to work by bicycle

As with many other modes of transport, bar the car, the numbers of people reporting bicycle use are low. However, the higher proportions do seem to be in inner-city LSOAs with thriving student populations.

Percent travelling by bicycle

Map 9 – those who walk to work

Unsurprisingly, the proportions of people walking to work are greatest in the city centre and decrease with distance from the city. However, peak walking proportions are at 49.48% and can be seen in the LSOA adjacent to my place of work.

Percent walking to work

Map 10 – people travelling by other means

These people travelling by “other means” are somewhat of a mystery. The 2011 Census Analysis on Method of Travel to Work in England and Wales Report reported that, “all of the English regions and Wales had less than 1 per cent of people commuting by other means (such as by ferry).” So the 2.88% travelling by other means in Newcastle upon Tyne 024B are an intriguing group. This LSOA is mainly park land, north of the city centre. There is no large body of water in the area, so the ONS assertion that, “ferry and hovercraft services are likely to make up the majority of the other means of commuting to work”, doesn’t explain this particular group of commuters. Perhaps they’re commuting by skateboard, by zip wire, on horseback, or by mobility scooter? Answers on a postcard please.

Percent travelling by other means

Videos: Why should medics care about evolution?

A friend of mine, the wonderful Thomas Carpenter, is currently studying medicine at Edinburgh University. He is part of a group of medical students with an interest in evloution, who are calling themselves the Evolutionary Medics.

The Evolutionary Medics recently ran an event, which was entitled “Bringing Darwin back to Edinburgh: wine, cheese and evolutionary medicine.” The excellent presentations are now available to view on YouTube and I wanted to promote them here:

Dr Sam Brown – Can we make evolution proof drugs?

Prof Gillian Bentley – The Clinical Significance of Evolutionary Medicine