Analysis of Spatial Data Combined with Teen Pregnancy Rates May Provide Increased Insights

map of population distribution of  adolescent females in Bhutan
The theme of World Population Day this past July 11 was adolescent pregnancy and its implications for the health and welfare of the roughly 16 million girls worldwide who give birth annually. Reducing adolescent birth rates worldwide is part of the Millennium Development Goals (indicator 5.4, to improve maternal health), the internationally agreed development targets for the year 2015.

This map of Bhutan uses gridded population data to visualize the distribution of female adolescent population living in rural and urban areas. This spatial information can be analyzed together with data on adolescent pregnancy rates.

graph of Bhutan adolescent fertility rates, 1990-2010

For example, in the graph above (see Bhutan, Adolescent Fertility Rates graph), which uses data from the Bhutan Multiple Indicator Survey (National Statistics Bureau, 2010), we can see a stark difference in the rate of adolescent female pregnancies rates in rural as compared to urban areas of Bhutan.

The map also incorporates intercity roads data, illustrating the relative lack of major roads in Bhutan; the first road network was not built until 1961. Nearly all the clusters with the highest proportions of adolescent females (represented by the darkest brown color) have some direct access to a major road, and the province that lacks a major road, Gasa, either does not have much population or the population was too inaccessible to collect the data. Roads provide easier access to to secondary schools, which tend to be located at a greater distance than primary schools, and to medical care.

Bhutan has made noteworthy strides in improving the health and well-being of its populace, and the government has instituted extensive family planning programs. As illustrated in the graph, there has been a steady decline in the fertility rate of adolescents in urban areas, but rates in rural areas remains high. The rural population is still scattered and rural settlements are relatively isolated: Bhutan has one of the most rugged mountain terrains in the world, and more than half of the population must walk more than half a day in order to reach a road.

The population data used to create the Bhutan map include detailed breakdowns of population distribution by age, sex, and urban/rural status across the country that can help provide insights into a range of issues like adolescent pregnancy, urbanization, migration, vulnerability to hazards, and access to markets relevant to the Millennium Development Goals and to sustainable development more generally. As part of its effort to develop the fourth version of the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data set, CIESIN is currently gathering detailed population estimates for most countries of the world to enable production of a consistent global gridded population data set with detailed estimates of age, sex, and urban/rural distribution within each country. Release of GPW version 4 is expected in the first half of 2014.

This blog is part of the Map of the Month blog series produced by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). The maps were developed by geographic information specialist Tricia Chai-Onn and associate research scientist Susana Adamo. For more information on the GPW data collection, please go to the SEDAC Web site.

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