A Bayesian analysis for spatial processes with application to mapping

Brenda Sue Bell, The University of Texas School of Public Health


In geographical epidemiology, maps of disease rates and disease risk provide a spatial perspective for researching disease etiology. For rare diseases or when the population base is small, the rate and risk estimates may be unstable. Empirical Bayesian (EB) methods have been used to spatially smooth the estimates by permitting an area estimate to "borrow strength" from its neighbors. Such EB methods include the use of a Gamma model, of a James-Stein estimator, and of a conditional autoregressive (CAR) process. A fully Bayesian analysis of the CAR process is proposed. One advantage of this fully Bayesian analysis is that it can be implemented simply by using repeated sampling from the posterior densities. Use of a Markov chain Monte Carlo technique such as Gibbs sampler was not necessary. Direct resampling from the posterior densities provides exact small sample inferences instead of the approximate asymptotic analyses of maximum likelihood methods (Clayton & Kaldor, 1987). Further, the proposed CAR model provides for covariates to be included in the model. A simulation demonstrates the effect of sample size on the fully Bayesian analysis of the CAR process. The methods are applied to lip cancer data from Scotland, and the results are compared.

Subject Area

Biostatistics|Geography|Public health|Geography

Recommended Citation

Bell, Brenda Sue, "A Bayesian analysis for spatial processes with application to mapping" (1995). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9631373.