Degree Name

Master of Science (Hons.)


Department of Public Health and Nutrition


This thesis arose from a perception that a paucity of information existed about the health of the community in the Wollongong, Kiama and Shellharbour areas of the lllawarra. The Healthy Cities lllawarra Committee supported the development of the Health Atlas of the lllawarra and with the help of a National Health and Medical Research Committee grant, the project began in 1988. Following the publication of the Atlas in 1991, it became clear that an analysis of the processes involved in profiling the health of a community would make a valuable contribution to this developing field of inquiry. In this project, a metatheoretical framework has been constructed from a combination of sciences (nursing, geograph and public health) and combined within general systems theory. From this platform, consideration can be given to the structure of communities, involving community values, skills and resources within the context of place and space and resulting in a community with a characteristic identity and goals. It is also possible, with this framework as a guide, to identify the processes of a community that hinge on human responses to their circumstances as they pursue order, help one another and contribute to the growth and development of their community. The final grouping within the framework identifes the indicators or outcomes of processes that underpin community existence. It is here that a community can be examined as a system that functions in terms of providing a safe environment where people have a choice of lifestyle options and are supported by an effective health system. The crucial element in this final grouping is an assessment of community competence in dealing with stress, competition and threats to health. This outcomes section of the metatheoretical framework provides the focus on theoretical and technical considerations which is the major theme of the thesis. The usefulness of this theoretical approach is then demonstrated. The considerations canvassed in the eariier parts of the thesis are applied to specific contexts, such as the aged, to demonstrate their utility in assessing the health of specific community groups. Finally, there is included a discussion of the processes involved in digital cartography and the production of healthrelated atlases.