Caplan, J. M., Kennedy, L. W., & Neudecker, C. H.* (2020). Cholera deaths in Soho, London, 1854: Risk terrain modeling for epidemiological investigations. PLOS ONE, 1-11.
Risk Terrain Modeling (RTM) is a spatial analysis technique used to diagnose environmental conditions that lead to hazardous outcomes. Originally developed for applications to violent crime analysis, RTM is utilized here to analyze Dr. John Snow’s data from the 1854 cholera outbreak in London to demonstrate its potential value to contemporary epidemiological investigations. Dr. Snow saved countless lives when he traced the source of the cholera outbreak to a specific water pump through inductive reasoning, which he communicated through maps and spatial evidence. His methods have since inspired several fields of scientific inquiry. Informed by the extant research on RTM, we speculated that it could have helped test Dr. Snow’s hypothesis about cholera and empirically identified the sole source of contaminated well water. We learned that it could and, although it was not available to Dr. Snow in the 1800s, we discuss RTM’s implications for present-day research and practice as it relates to the analysis, prevention and treatment of cholera and other public health threats around the world.