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Using PGIS to understand health and well-being in urban Thailand: the case of Udon Thani

What does a healthy and liveable city look like? This case study shows how Participatory GIS has been used with residents of the Northern Thailand city of Udon Thani to find out.
Multiple Authors
A busy street in central Udon Thani. Photo: Diane Archer / SEI.
What does a healthy and liveable city look like? The residents of Udon Thani provide their perspectives.

This case study is part of the Urban Toolbox, a collection of tools aimed at supporting planning and decision-making for improving the health, well-being and resilience of city residents and urban systems more broadly. It demonstrates how Participatory Geographical Information Systems can be used to gather input from resident to inform city planning and development.


Urban public spaces, both natural and built, contribute to the liveability of urban spaces. Recognising the pressures public spaces are under in rapidly changing cities of the Global South it is critical that city planners assess the importance and use (or absence) of the spaces in different neighbourhoods to provide better evidence to protect these assets from development or identify locations where more public spaces are required.

Participatory Geographical Information Systems (PGIS) are used to capture local knowledge in a spatial map. This allows different groups to share their knowledge of environmental issues and development options more clearly with the aim of incorporating this enhanced understanding to improve decision making and outcomes.

This case study shows how the SEI Initiative on City Health & Wellbeing has worked with residents of Udon Thani to explore these interlinkages between access, availability and use of urban public spaces and residents’ wellbeing using PGIS.


A participatory geographic information system survey was used to explore these interlinkages between access, availability and use of urban public spaces and residents’ wellbeing. Surveys were carried out in several neighbourhoods which represented a cross-section of local environmental, social and economic conditions ranging from central to suburban locations, including fully to partially serviced areas in terms of public utilities

An on-street survey was deployed utilising a rapid appraisal mapping methodology (Cinderby 2010) collecting individuals responses to structured queries. Respondents mapped on an A0 satellite image of the neighbourhood the locations of their favourite public space for recreation, socializing and exercise (that all impact on wellbeing), as well as the most stressful place. After placing location sticker respondents were asked to explain their choices.

Engaging women’s groups in Udon Thani, Thailand. Photo: Diane Archer / SEI.

Outcomes and Impacts

Data for decision-making

The digitized PGIS data enabled the production of hotspot maps of valued and stressful spaces to communicate our findings to urban planners. The digital data could be stratified to assess differences by neighbourhood or gender in the use and value of spaces so that specific stakeholder groups needs could be considered. The participatory data was enhanced with official spatial information including satellite imagery of greenness to consider environmental quality and road networks to assess the impacts of environmental conditions (traffic congestion, noise and pollution) on the wellbeing benefits of different spaces.

Box 1 below shows the outputs of the PGIS analysis, which identified positive (+ve) locations and stressful locations in the city.

Key Findings

  • The findings of this study show that both natural and built areas in Udon Thani are important for promoting wellbeing. (See video above.)
  • From the participants comments key factors that enabled or prevented the use of public spaces were convenience: proximity, affordability, and usability.
  • The results also highlight the effects of the inequitable distribution of inviting public realm spaces across the cities and consider the impacts on spatial justice.
  • These findings strengthen the need to promote wellbeing considerations through urban planning in these rapidly changing cities to ensure their future liveability.

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