Using Data for Food Environment Mapping for Indigenous Communities and Populations 52

By Victor Temprano

This is a guest post on Voices of Amerikua. See more on Native Land here

Authors: Dani Kogan, Gabriella Luongo, Catherine L. Mah


Recently, I was asked to create a map to visually represent the Indigenous populations reported in a scoping review of the retail food environment and health in Indigenous populations. Globally, there is evidence of poorer health and social outcomes among Indigenous populations as compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts as a result of ongoing colonization [1-6]. Among Indigenous populations, evidence suggests market-based foods (foods purchased from stores) as compared to traditional foods have resulted in decreased intakes of nutrients that are known to prevent obesity and non-communicable diseases and increased intakes of nutrients known to increase disease risk [7-12]. Given the relatively high contemporary consumption of market-based foods among Indigenous populations, it is of importance to study the influence of the retail food environment (price, placement, product availability and variety, promotion, and proximity to retail food outlets) on dietary behaviours and health to gain a better understanding into supporting the improvement of diets, weight, and health among Indigenous peoples.  The scooping review is currently underway. As part of the manuscript preparation process, a challenge identified by the team was how to describe the breadth of indigenous populations, communities and territories t hat were included.

The Team

The scoping review team consisted of food environment and Indigenous health researchers from Dalhousie University (Dr. Catherine Mah, Dr. Debbie Martin, Gabriella Luongo, and Ziwa Yu), and the University of Waterloo (Dr. Kelly Skinner and Breanna Phillipps). The team included qualitative and quantitative studies such as dietary assessments, observational studies and intervention research. The review has been registered with the Joanna Briggs Institute for Systematic Reviews under Dr. Catherine L. Mah. As the lab’s research analyst, I supported the team to use GIS visualization approach with the generous advice and resources from


To map the Indigenous populations, appropriate data was necessary. Some of the studies in the systematic review describe Indigenous populations within administrative boundaries (i.e. states and countries), for which data is relatively easy to obtain as it is often available through government sources. Other studies described Indigenous groups, lands and territories, for which data isn’t readily available for various reasons (colonial legacies and land tenure and governance, with factors such as changing boundaries and non-digitized records). In the next few sections I’ll describe how the data was downloaded, modified and used to create the map for the review.

First, I downloaded the data as a JSON file from the API section on (, by right clicking Territories and ‘saving as link’. Then, was used to convert the JSON file into a shapefile so that it can be easily imported into ArcGIS Pro.

In ArcGIS Pro (2.3), specific polygons of Indigenous territories that were described in the studies assessed were selected and exported as new feature classes. The search option on was useful for pinpointing the location of the territories. Then, I labeled the polygons using the territory names.

Some clipping was required: Inupiat, Yup’ik/ Cup’ik and Nunatsiavut polygons were clipped to land boundaries (Alaska and Canada) to crop out the ocean (since the study looks at populations, which are found on land), and the Cree nation polygon was clipped to Manitoba as the study was specific to Crees living in Manitoba.

Here is an example of the clipping that was done (Yup’ik/ Cup’ik):

Results & Conclusion

The final map that I created consists of multiple frames: Western Unites States and Hawaii, Canada and Alaska, New Zealand, South America, Australia. For now, I can only share one of these frames as the systematic review is yet to be published. The Western Unites States and Hawaii frame is shown in the map below.

In this map, orange polygons represent studies that describe administrative boundaries, and pink polygons represent studies that describe Indigenous territories (from Some studies also described specific communities that are too small to symbolize as polygons; so points features were created. An example of such community that is seen in this map frame is Maycoba (located in Mexico).

This map was created to act as a visual aid in a scoping review looking at the effects of the retail food environmental to diet-related health among Indigenous populations around the world. By including the map in the review we help readers understand not only what indigenous populations are described in the reviewed studies, but also the importance of land and spatial distribution to health and food access.


  1. M. Gracey and M. King, “Indigenous health part 1: determinants and disease patterns,” Lancet, vol. 374, no. 9683, pp. 65–75, 2009.
  2. F. Kolahdooz, B. Sadeghirad, A. Corriveau, and S. Sharma, “Prevalence of overweight and obesity among indigenous populations in Canada: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr., vol. 57, no. 7, pp. 1316–1327, 2017.
  3. I. Anderson et al., “Indigenous and tribal peoples’ health (The Lancet–Lowitja Institute Global Collaboration): a population study,” Lancet, vol. 388, no. 10040, pp. 131–157, 2016.
  4. L. J. Kirmayer and G. Brass, “Addressing global health disparities among Indigenous peoples,” Lancet, vol. 388, no. 10040, pp. 105–106, 2016.
  5. D. Warne and S. Wescott, “Social Determinants of American Indian Nutritional Health,” Curr. Dev. Nutr., p. nzz054, 2019.
  6. M. King, A. Smith, and M. Gracey, “Indigenous health part 2: the underlying causes of the health gap,” Lancet, vol. 374, no. 9683, pp. 76–85, 2009.
  7. H. V. Kuhnlein, B. Erasmus, and D. Spigelski, Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems: the many dimensions of culture, diversity and environment for nutrition and health. 2009.
  8. H. V Kuhnlein, R. Soueida, and O. Receveur, “Dietary nutrient profiles of Canadian Baffin Island Inuit differ by food source, season, and age,” J. Am. Diet. Assoc., vol. 96, no. 2, pp. 155–162, 1996.
  9. P. R. Berti, S. E. Hamilton, O. Receveur, and H. V Kuhnlein, “Food Use and Nutrient Adequacy: In Baffin Inuit Children and Adolescents,” Can. J. Diet. Pract. Res., vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 63–70, 1999.
  10. O. Receveur, M. Boulay, and H. V Kuhnlein, “Decreasing traditional food use affects diet quality for adult Dene/Metis in 16 communities of the Canadian Northwest Territories,” J. Nutr., vol. 127, no. 11, pp. 2179–2186, 1997.
  11. S. ARORA et al., “The development of burfi sweetened with aspartame.,” Int. J. Dairy Technol., vol. 63, no. 1, pp. 127–135, Feb. 2010.
  12. S. Sharma, X. Cao, C. Roache, A. Buchan, R. Reid, and J. Gittelsohn, “Assessing dietary intake in a population undergoing a rapid transition in diet and lifestyle: The Arctic Inuit in Nunavut, Canada,” Br. J. Nutr., vol. 103, no. 5, pp. 749–759, 2010.


Comments are closed.

Theme developed by TouchSize - Premium WordPress Themes and Websites