Open Access Research

Spatial clustering of non-transported cardiac decedents: the results of a point pattern analysis and an inquiry into social environmental correlates

Elizabeth Barnett Pathak1*, Steven Reader2, Jean Paul Tanner1 and Michele L Casper3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics College of Public Health, University of South Florida 13201 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. MDC 56 Tampa FL 33612 USA

2 Department of Geography, Environment, and Planning University of South Florida 4202 E Fowler Ave, NES107 Tampa FL 33629-5250 USA

3 Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 4770 Buford Highway MS-K-47 Atlanta, GA 30341-3724 USA

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2011, 10:46  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-10-46

Published: 28 July 2011



People who die from heart disease at home before any attempt at transport has been made may represent missed opportunities for life-saving medical intervention. In this study, we undertook a point-pattern spatial analysis of heart disease deaths occurring before transport in a large metropolitan area to determine whether there was spatial clustering of non-transported decedents and whether there were significant differences between the clusters of non-transported cardiac decedents and the clusters of transported cardiac decedents in terms of average travel distances to nearest hospital and area socioeconomic characteristics. These analyses were adjusted for individual predictors of transport status.


We obtained transport status from the place of death variable on the death certificate. We geocoded heart disease decedents to residential street addresses using a rigorous, multistep process with 97% success. Our final study population consisted of 11,485 adults aged 25-74 years who resided in a large metropolitan area in west-central Florida and died from heart disease during 1998-2002. We conducted a kernel density analysis to identify clusters of the residential locations of cardiac decedents where there was a statistically significant excess probability of being either transported or not transported prior to death; we controlled for individual-level covariates using logistic regression-derived probability estimates.


The majority of heart disease decedents were married (53.4%), male (66.4%), white (85.6%), and aged 65-74 years at the time of death (54.7%), and a slight majority were transported prior to death (57.7%). After adjustment for individual predictors, 21 geographic clusters of non-transported heart disease decedents were observed. Contrary to our hypothesis, clusters of non-transported decedents were slightly closer to hospitals than clusters of transported decedents. The social environmental characteristics of clusters varied in the expected direction, with lower socioeconomic and household resources in the clusters of non-transported heart disease deaths.


These results suggest that in this large metropolitan area unfavorable household and neighborhood resources played a larger role than distance to hospital with regard to transport status of cardiac patients; more research is needed in different geographic areas of the United States and in other industrialized nations.