The research group of Geoinformatics has two major focus areas: 1) geography of health and well-being, and 2) problems related to spatial accessibility, routing and locational optimization.

Most of the current research projects of the group involve elements of both themes, making them strongly intertwined. The work conducted by the group is oriented towards applied research, dealing with many timely problems and challenges in the Finnish society, including the currently ongoing health care reform, spatial reorganization and logistical challenges of social and health care services, and the changing health needs of the ageing population. The applied research is supported by a more generally oriented geospatial analysis of the regional and urban structure, and population dynamics in Finland.

Research group information

Unit and faculty

Research group description

Research group is closely involved in environmental research, carried out in co-operation with physical geographers. Some of these research efforts are related to spatial ecology and environmental change in the North, whereas others concern the influence of the physical environment, air impurities, and ambient temperature on the incidence of diseases and public health in general.

GIS-based methods (Geographic Information System) are used extensively by the research group to address the problems presented in the different projects. In some cases, the GIS-based approach is coupled with statistical techniques, aiming at both explorative and predictive modeling of spatial and societal phenomena. The research carried out by the group involves the use of a wide range of geospatial datasets, including data on transportation networks (for accessibility, location and routing problems), population structure, as well as built and natural environment alike. In addition, population cohort datasets, used in co-operation with epidemiologists, constitute an important part of the study of the geography of health and well-being.

The research group is engaged in software development for the automatization of GIS-based tasks and implementation of spatial algorithms, providing means to manage data processing workflows and analysis procedures independent of the capabilities of the mainstream GIS software.


Harri Antikainen

Ossi Kotavaara

Ala-Hulkko Terhi

Tiina Lankila

Tiina Huotari

Seppänen Marjo

Ongoing research projects

Improved knowledge base and service optimisation to support health and social services reform (IMPRO)

IMPRO is a multidisciplinary research project seeking to develop new analysis methods for evaluating health and social services, and to support the development of more equal and cost-effective services. The research carried out in the project is based on the use of national social welfare and health care registers and spatial information. The themes embraced by the project include social welfare and health care structures, accessibility of care, care paths as well as the outcomes, costs and cost-effectiveness of care, both before and after the reform.

Funding: Strategic Research Council (SRC) and Academy of Finland

Information for Research Participants

Web site:


Huotari, T., Antikainen, H., Rusanen, J., Kotavaara, O., Haukipuro, K. & Jaako, N. (2018). Paikkatieto – avain sairaaloiden saavutettavuuden analysointiin. Lääkärilehti 73, 1609–1611.

Huotari, T., Antikainen, H., Keistinen, T. & Rusanen, J. (2017). Accessibility of tertiary hospitals in Finland: A comparison of administrative and normative catchment areas. Social Science & Medicine 182, 60–67.

Contact persons: Jarmo Rusanen (professor emeritus), Harri Antikainen, Tiina Lankila, Tiina Huotari and Ossi Kotavaara

Ride-sharing potential of publicly funded taxi transport in Finland

Comprising of a series of three sub-projects, the aim of this project is to evaluate the extent to which taxi trips reimbursed by different sources of public funding could be shared in order to rationalize the organization of transport. The research also addresses the implications of ride-sharing, such as additional stops interrupting the travel of other clients. The project is closely linked to the social and health care reform in Finland, as the taxi trips assessed in this study consist of trips to hospitals and other health care or rehabilitation facilities, as well as transportation offered for severely disabled persons.

Funding: Kela (Social Insurance Institution of Finland)


Antikainen, H., Rusanen, J. & Tillman, P. (2018). Taksimatkojen yhdistelypotentiaalin arviointi paikkatietoanalyysillä (Evaluating the shareability of taxi trips using geographical information analysis). Terra 130, 163–173.

Antikainen, H., Rusanen, J. & Tillman, P. (2018). Sairausvakuutuksen korvaamien taksimatkojen yhdistelyllä saavutettavien säästöjen arviointi: Paikkatietoanalyysi Tampereen yliopistollisen sairaalan erityisvastuualueella tehdyistä taksimatkoista vuonna 2015. Kela, Työpapereita 142.

Contact person: Harri Antikainen

The influence of air pollution, pollen, and ambient temperature on asthma and allergies in changing climate (APTA)

The aim of the research project is to assess both short-term and long-term health effects of air pollution, allergenic pollen and extreme climatic factors on asthma, allergies and mortality in two population-based studies (Espoo Cohort Study and Finnish Environment and Asthma Study). The project is carried out as a collaboration between the Center for Environmental and Respiratory Health Research, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, and the Geography Research Unit of the University of Oulu. Innovative and complementary research methodologies are used in the project, including new modeling approaches for air pollution and pollen, statistical environmental and information technologies, geoinformatics, genetics, clinical medicine and epidemiology. Information produced by this consortium project will be useful for health care, community planning and the development of warning systems.

Funding: Academy of Finland

Web site:

Selected publications:

Antikainen, H. & Hjort, J. (2018). Paikkatiedoista apua astman ja allergioiden tutkimukseen. Positio 3/2018, 8–11.

Hjort, J., Hugg, T., Antikainen, H., Rusanen, J., Sofiev, M., Kukkonen, J., Jaakkola, M. & Jaakkola, J. (2016). Fine-scale exposure to allergenic pollen in the urban environment: evaluation of land use regression approach. Environmental Health Perspectives 124, 619–626.

Contact persons: Harri Antikainen and Jan Hjort (professor, Physical Geography)

Determinants and lifecourse trajectories of physical activity and sedentary behavior at middlife

The aim of this study is to identify the features of the built and natural environment associated with physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SED) and evaluate how changes in the built environment are associated with the changes in PA, and explore the lifelong determinants and trajectories of PA and SED in respect to residential environment. The study population is the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966.

The features associated with PA and SED and their lifelong trajectories are studied in respect to health, health behavior, socioeconomy, personality and work related factors. The changes in built and physical environment from 31 to 46 years of age are studied by utilizing the geographic information system (GIS) and geographical data, such as the home coordinates of the cohort members, YKR-data, Digiroad and Lipas sports facility data.

The physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of death, and promoting physical activity is a public health priority. The knowledge produced in this study can be utilized in urban planning, education, planning of interventions and in evidence based decision making.

Funding: Ministry of Education and Culture

Contact: Tiina Lankila and Jarmo Rusanen (professor emeritus), Geography Research Unit; Sirkka Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi (professor emerita), Faculty of Medicine, CLCE; Raija Korpelainen (professor of health exercise), Faculty of Medicine, CLCE and Oulu Deaconess Institute Foundation, Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine.

Low carbon logistics in local social and health care services (SOLOGS)

This project aims to advance carbon efficiency of social and health care service network by creating new knowledge about rational service locations and efficient patient and material logistics. As a subtask, the project develops the entity of social and health care services in the North Ostrobothnia region from the viewpoints of customer accessibility, market potential and logistics service network. New solutions for thin material flows in the context of long distances are sought through transport integration. The project also develops opportunities for geographically mobile services in the region.

Funding: European Regional Development Fund

Web site:

Contact person: Ossi Kotavaara

Global geographic accessibility to food resources: Exploring spatial mismatch between food production, consumption and transport system by using big and open source data

Despite of satisfactory level of global food production, shortage of food is still a considerable problem in some of the less-developed countries. Future climate change, population growth and conflicts likely increase the problem, whereas developing farming practices and opportunities to boost fair markets may ease off the undernutrition problem. However, regional balance between production and consumption, as well as differences in transport system conditions among regions, have a key role in satisfying demand. The aim of the study is to explore the spatial mismatch between proxies of food production and consumption in accurately localised data.

Funding: Kone Foundation

Contact person: Ossi Kotavaara

Opportunities and effects of mobility and multi-locality (Alueellisen liikkuvuuden ja monipaikkaisuuden mahdollisuudet ja seuraukset)

The study investigates the state and magnitude of mobility and multi-locality in Finland from different perspectives. Particular attention is paid to work-related mobility patterns and exploring individual, workplace-related and regional characteristics affecting both phenomena.

Funding: VN TEAS

Contact person: Ossi Kotavaara

A selection of previous, completed projects

Quantification and valuation of ecosystem services to optimize sustainable re-use for low-productive drained peatlands (LIFEPeatLandUse)

The aim of the project was to produce GIS-based maps to demonstrate the predicted impacts of peatland re-use options on ecosystem services. This was done by developing a decision support system, in which ecological and economic information were transformed into land use options such that the benefits from ecosystem services are safeguarded. The monetary value of the land use options were maximized under given constraints regarding biodiversity, environmental loading and GHG emissions, in order to fulfil the constraints set in the regional, national, and EU level policies. The implemented system was used to optimize the re-use of low-productive drained peatlands, which is a key issue concerning peatland use in Finland.

Funding: LIFE+ Environment Policy and Governance (LIFEPeatLandUse).


Kotavaara, O., Parviainen, M. & Rusanen, J. (2017). Cartographic dissemination of peat land re-use scenarios – Intelligible and accessible web maps for specialists and the masses. 20th AGILE International Conference on Geographic Information Science.

Balancing local politics, housing preferences and sustainability in the new detached housing areas in the rural-urban interaction zones (BALANCE)

A GIS-based analysis of university graduates was included in the final stage of the BALANCE project. In the sub-project carried out by the research group, the development paths in new settlements were considered in the context of housing preferences, and more precisely, how the positive and/or negative development paths of different urban regions affected the housing preferences of inhabitants in the new settlements.

Funding: Academy of Finland


Kotavaara, N., Kotavaara, O., Rusanen, J. & Muilu, T. (2018). University graduate migration in Finland. Geoforum 96, 97–107.

Accessibility of sports facilities (Liikuntapaikkojen saavutettavuusindeksi) (LINDA)

The LINDA project developed accessibility measures for sport facilities in Finland. Accessibility indices can be applied in the monitoring of the success of sport policies in municipalities, and in the measurement of the spatial coverage of sport facilities and their regional differences.

Funding: Ministry of the Education and Culture


Kotavaara, O. & Rusanen, J. (2016). Liikuntapaikkojen saavutettavuus paikkatietoperusteisessa tarkastelussa: Liikuntapaikkojen saavutettavuusindeksi (LINDA) -hankkeen loppuraportti. Nordia Tiedonantoja 1/2016.

Healthy support services (Terveet tukipalvelut - Tehokkaat ja käyttäjälähtöisen tukipalvelumallit pitkien etäisyyksien terveyspalvelujärjestelmissä)

The Healthy support services (Effective, user-centered and scalable support service models in long distance health care systems) project assessed health care systems in sparsely populated areas with long distances. Instead of developing the existing systems, improved effectiveness was sought by producing services that are based on the actual value of the main functions in health care. In particular, the project concentrated on value creation of support operations and scalable service model for areas with long distances without organizational barriers.

Funding: Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (TEKES)


Kotavaara, O., Pohjosenperä, T., Juga, J. & Rusanen, J. (2017). Accessibility in designing centralised warehousing: case of health care logistics in Northern Finland. Applied Geography 84, 83–92.

Social and health care service network 2025 (Sosiaali- ja terveyspalveluiden palveluverkko 2025)

The aim of the project was to assess the geographical accessibility and reorganization needs of social and health care services on a time span extending to 2025. The needs for reorganization were evaluated in relation to population trends, age structure and the opportunities brought about by the emergence of new digital social and health care services.

Funding: Sitra


Lankila, T., Kotavaara, O., Antikainen, H., Hakkarainen, T. & Rusanen, J. (2016). Sosiaali- ja terveyspalveluverkon kehityskuva 2025 – Paikkatieto- ja saavutettavuusperusteinen tarkastelu.


Local and organic foods have gained a larger share of the markets in Finland during the last years. The potential increase of the use of local food has a strong connection to accessibility. The RuokaGIS project used GIS and geospatial analysis to reveal the location and accessibility patterns of local and organic food in the province of North Ostrobothnia, Finland.

Funding: European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development


Korhonen K., Kotavaara, O., Muilu, T. & Rusanen, J. (2017). Accessibility of local food production to regional markets – case of berry production in Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland. European Countryside 9, 709–728.

GIS-based terrain path optimization

The project sought to investigate and implement methods for the determination of optimal movement paths in the cross-country terrain context by utilizing GIS-based terrain data. Several methods were developed and evaluated in the project, and they have been applied to the planning of optimal forest inventory tours in co-operation with the former Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla).

Funding: Academy of Finland, KIRSU graduate school

Selected publications:

Antikainen, H. (2013). Using the hierarchical pathfinding A* algorithm in GIS to find paths through rasters with nonuniform traversal cost. International Journal of Geo-Information 2, 996–1014.

Antikainen, H. (2013). Comparison of different strategies for determining raster-based least-cost paths with a minimum amount of distortion. Transactions in GIS 17, 96–108.

Store, R. & Antikainen, H. (2010). Using GIS-based multicriteria evaluation and path optimization for effective forest field inventory. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 34, 153-161.

Transport accessibility at regional/local scale and patterns in Europe (TRACC)

The aim of the TRACC was to build on the results of previous studies on accessibility at the European scale. More specifically, the purpose of the project was to 1) extend the range of accessibility indicators by further indicators responding to new policy questions, 2) improve the spatial resolution of accessibility indicators and 3) to explore the likely impacts of policies at the European and national scale to improve global, European and regional accessibility in respect of the new challenges, such as globalization, energy scarcity and climate change. The project of seven partners and six EU countries was led by Spiekermann & Wegener Urban and Regional Research (S&W).

Funding: ESPON

Web site:

Regional well-being and health

The research was carried out in co-operation with Institute of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu. The aim of the project was to study regional well-being and health using population grid data and the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 with GIS-based and statistical methods.

Funding: Academy of Finland, Public Health Challenges Research Programme (SALVE)


Lankila, T., Näyhä, S., Rautio, A., Koiranen, M., Rusanen, J. & Taanila, A. (2013). Health and well-being of movers in rural and urban areas – a grid-based analysis of Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966. Social Science & Medicine 76, 169–178.

Lankila, T., Näyhä, S., Rautio, A., Nordström, T., Koiranen, M., Taanila, A. & Rusanen, J. (2012). Self-reported health in urban-rural continuum: a grid-based analysis of Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966. International Journal of Public Health 57, 525–533.

Accessibility of large retail units and traffic emissions in Oulu region, Finland

Accessibility is very often viewed as saving time or other costs, but with the location planning traffic emissions might as well be minimized. In this project, CO2 emissions related to the accessibility of large retail stores were evaluated with GIS tools. By using and developing existing tools, aim was to devise a method with which the locations of retail stores can be compared in terms of CO2 emissions.

Funding: European Regional Development Fund


Määttä-Juntunen, H., Antikainen, H., Kotavaara, O. & Rusanen, J. (2011). Using GIS tools to estimate CO2 emissions related to the accessibility of large retail stores in the Oulu region, Finland. Journal of Transport Geography 19, 346–354.

Finnish railways in the Nordic and Russian context (FiRa)

FiRa was a part of a collaborative research project “The European Road and Rail Infrastructure: A Geographical Information System for the History of the European Integration (1825–2005)”, which was organised within European Science Foundation’s (ESF) EUROCORES Programme Inventing Europe, Technology and the Making of Europe, 1850 to the Present. The aim of FiRA was to explore the effects of railway transports on population change. The study analysed the topic at different scales in Finland between 1880−2009. The exploration of the potential relationship between accessibility and population change at different scales was possible due to the availability of GIS data of Finnish transport networks and the population.

Funding: Academy of Finland

Selected publications:

Kotavaara, O., Antikainen, H., Marmion, M. & Rusanen, J. (2012). Scale in the effect of accessibility on population change: GIS and a statistical approach to road, air and rail accessibility in Finland, 1990–2008. The Geographical Journal 178, 366–382.

Kotavaara, O., Antikainen, H. & Rusanen, J. (2011). Urbanization and Transportation in Finland, 1880-1970: A GIS Analysis. Journal of Interdisciplinary History 42, 89–109.

Kotavaara, O., Antikainen, H. & Rusanen, J. (2011). Population change and accessibility by road and rail networks: GIS and statistical approach to Finland 1970–2007. Journal of Transport Geography 19, 926–935.