Web-based survey application to collect contextually relevant geographic data with exposure times: Application development and feasibility testing

Abby Rudolph, Karin Tobin, Jonathan Rudolph, Carl Latkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Although studies that characterize the risk environment by linking contextual factors with individual-level data have advanced infectious disease and substance use research, there are opportunities to refine how we define relevant neighborhood exposures; this can in turn reduce the potential for exposure misclassification. For example, for those who do not inject at home, injection risk behaviors may be more influenced by the environment where they inject than where they live. Similarly, among those who spend more time away from home, a measure that accounts for different neighborhood exposures by weighting each unique location proportional to the percentage of time spent there may be more correlated with health behaviors than one's residential environment. Objective: This study aimed to develop a Web-based application that interacts with Google Maps application program interfaces (APIs) to collect contextually relevant locations and the amount of time spent in each. Our analysis examined the extent of overlap across different location types and compared different approaches for classifying neighborhood exposure. Methods: Between May 2014 and March 2017, 547 participants enrolled in a Baltimore HIV care and prevention study completed an interviewer-Administered Web-based survey that collected information about where participants were recruited, worked, lived, socialized, injected drugs, and spent most of their time. For each location, participants gave an address or intersection which they confirmed using Google Map and Street views. Geographic coordinates (and hours spent in each location) were joined to neighborhood indicators by Community Statistical Area (CSA). We computed a weighted exposure based on the proportion of time spent in each unique location. We compared neighborhood exposures based on each of the different location types with one another and the weighted exposure using analysis of variance with Bonferroni corrections to account for multiple comparisons. Results: Participants reported spending the most time at home, followed by the location where they injected drugs. Injection locations overlapped most frequently with locations where people reported socializing and living or sleeping. The least time was spent in the locations where participants reported earning money and being recruited for the study; these locations were also the least likely to overlap with other location types. We observed statistically significant differences in neighborhood exposures according to the approach used. Overall, people reported earning money in higher-income neighborhoods and being recruited for the study and injecting in neighborhoods with more violent crime, abandoned houses, and poverty. Conclusions: This analysis revealed statistically significant differences in neighborhood exposures when defined by different locations or weighted based on exposure time. Future analyses are needed to determine which exposure measures are most strongly associated with health and risk behaviors and to explore whether associations between individual-level behaviors and neighborhood exposures are modified by exposure times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Geographic mapping
  • Spatial analysis
  • Substance-related disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Informatics


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