Creating a geospatial database of risks and resources to explore urban adolescent substance use

Michael Mason, Ivan Cheung, Leslie Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This article illustrates the methodology of creating a comprehensive geospatial database in order to systematically understand the social ecology of risk and protection for urban youth. The challenges and future opportunities involved with this complex work were reviewed, and specific examples were provided to guide researchers. Data were collected from a Washington, DC adolescent substance abuse treatment sample to construct a geospatial database to evaluate urban youths' social environmental risk and resources. A geographic information systems (GIS) approach was adopted to integrate a large array of variables at different levels of geography. For example, risk factors included proximity to crime hotspots, and other known potential establishments with negative influence (such as liquor stores). We also used GIS to assess the subjects' accessibility to protective resources such as public libraries, recreational, parks, and police stations. Unique to our method was the collecting and mapping of each teen's activity locations (places they typically frequent). These data form "risk and protection exposure" estimates for each teen. Finally, we illustrated the specific methods for creating a dynamic geospatial database for urban youth and present future analytical approaches and challenges with these type of data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-34
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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