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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Curtis, S. & Riva, M. Health geographies I: complexity theory and human health. Progress in Human Geography. 2009;34:215-223.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper is the first of two linked progress reports on the application of ideas from complexity theory to health geography. In this paper we focus especially on research which seeks to explain variations in human health from a geographical perspective. We mainly discuss selected studies of geographies of human health which illustrate how ideas from complexity theory are applied empirically. In order to interpret more effectively the dynamic and recursive networks of relationships anticipated by complexity theory, future research will be required to go further in breaking down the divisions that are often assumed between research using different types of empirical methods. We comment on the potential to do this by means of advanced approaches to statistical and spatial modelling and by giving greater attention to the complementarity between these methods and qualitative techniques. We also discuss the emphasis in these examples on research which adopts an interdisciplinary strategy. Our conclusions refer forward to our companion report, which focuses more on studies of geographies of health care and health policy, emphasizing that complexity theory applied to health systems underlines the connections between health, health care and health policy.

Department of Geography