The GCH is a rural-urban geographic classification designed to allow New Zealand’s health researchers and policy makers to accurately monitor rural-urban variations in health outcomes. The GCH classifies all areas of Aotearoa New Zealand as rural or urban according to their proximity to larger urban areas with respect to health.
The GCH is comprised of five categories, two urban and three rural, that reflect degrees of reducing urban influence and increasing rurality. The GCH applies these categories to all of New Zealand’s Statistical Area 1s (SA1s, small statistical areas which are the output geography for population data) on a scale from ‘Urban 1’ to ‘Urban 2’ based on population size, and from “Rural 1’ to ‘Rural 3’ based on drive time to their closest major, large, medium, and small1 urban areas.
The population and drive time thresholds used in the GCH were developed from a health perspective; the nature of the functional relationships between urban areas and rural surrounds considered through a health lens. The quantitative and qualitative (‘on-the-ground’) validity of the GCH were tested in partnership with the Ministry of Health’s National Rural Health Advisory Group (NRHAG) and a wide range of rural health stakeholders.
The GCH is based on Stats NZ geographies and classifications and will update in line with them. The GCH uses the population and drive time data that was used in the development of the Urban Accessibility (UA) classification (StatsNZ, 2020). The UA is in turn based on the Statistical Standard for Geographic Areas 2018 (SSGA18) which includes the urban rural 2018 (UR2018) classification (StatsNZ, 2018).
In its self the GCH is not a formula for the allocation of healthcare resources, and is not a healthcare accessibility index.
Please scroll down to view our latest publications and reports.
1. New Zealand Medical Journal
Citation: in press reference– Link and PDF will be added once published.
Whitehead, J., Davie, G., de Graaf, B., Crengle, S., Fearnley, D., Smith, M., Lawrenson, R., & Nixon, G. (2022, in press). Defining rural in Aotearoa New Zealand: A novel geographic classification for health purposes. New Zealand Medical Journal.
This publication describes the GCH including its development and validation.
2. Australian Journal of Rural Health
Nixon G, Whitehead J, Davie G, Fearnley D, Crengle S, de Graaf B, Smith M, Wakerman, J & Lawrenson R. Developing the geographic classification for health, a rural-urban classification for New Zealand health research and policy: A research protocol. Australian Journal Rural Health. 2021;00:1-8. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ajr.12778
The publication presents the rationale for developing the GCH and protocol used in its development.
3. Technical Report
Whitehead, J., Davie,G., de Graaf, B., Crengle, S., Smith, M., Fearnley, D., Farrell, N., & Nixon, G. (2021). The Geographic Classification for Health, Methodology and classification report, May 2021. https://blogs.otago.ac.nz/rural-urbannz/files/2021/07/The-Geographic-Classification-for-Health-Methodology-and-Classification-Report-May-2021.pdf
This technical report describes in detail the GCH and the methodology underpinning it.
4. “‘Poorly defined’: unknown unknowns in New Zealand Rural Health.”
Fearnley, D., Lawrenson, R. Nixon, G. (2016). “‘Poorly defined’: unknown unknowns in New Zealand Rural Health.” New Zealand Medical Journal. 2016;129(1439)
This paper describes the problems with the traditional methods of defining ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ in NZ health policy and literature.
Please view these maps in a PDF file format on the GCH maps page. Geographic Classification for Health – GCH