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Exploring the Specifications of Spatial Adjacencies and Weights in Bayesian Spatial Modeling with Intrinsic Conditional Autoregressive Priors in a Small-area Study of Fall Injuries

School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, ON, Canada

Special Issues: Spatial Aspects of Health: Methods and Applications

Intrinsic conditional autoregressive modeling in a Bayeisan hierarchical framework has been increasingly applied in small-area ecological studies. This study explores the specifications of spatial structure in this Bayesian framework in two aspects: adjacency, i.e., the set of neighbor(s) for each area; and (spatial) weight for each pair of neighbors. Our analysis was based on a small-area study of falling injuries among people age 65 and older in Ontario, Canada, that was aimed to estimate risks and identify risk factors of such falls. In the case study, we observed incorrect adjacencies information caused by deficiencies in the digital map itself. Further, when equal weights was replaced by weights based on a variable of expected count, the range of estimated risks increased, the number of areas with probability of estimated risk greater than one at different probability thresholds increased, and model fit improved. More importantly, significance of a risk factor diminished. Further research to thoroughly investigate different methods of variable weights; quantify the influence of specifications of spatial weights; and develop strategies for better defining spatial structure of a map in small-area analysis in Bayesian hierarchical spatial modeling is recommended.
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