Profile: Sara McLafferty

Professor Sara McLafferty, Department of Geography, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. Sara’s research interests include the use of GIS and spatial analysis methods to analyze health and social inequalities in cities, and gender- and racial-disparities in access to services and employment opportunities.

Sara McLafferty holds a BA degree from Barnard College and MA and PhD degrees in geography from the University of Iowa. Before coming to Illinois in 2001, Sara taught for almost two decades in New York City at Hunter College-CUNY and Columbia University. She loves cities and is fascinated by the health and social inequalities embedded in urban landscapes. She has explored a wide range of topics in urban and health geography including: political and geographical restructuring of urban hospital services; spatial clustering of breast cancer and low birth weight in US cities; and geographical and social barriers to health care for women and immigrants. With Ellen Cromley, she co-authored GIS and Public Health (Guilford Press, 2002), soon to appear in a second edition. She also co-edited A Companion to Health and Medical Geography (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), with Tim Brown and Graham Moon, and Geographies of Women’s Health (Routledge, 2001) with Isabel Dyck and Nancy Davis Lewis. She has published in geography, public health, and urban studies journals and currently serves as an Associate Editor for Health and Place.

Sara’s current research centers around four issues: First, she continues to explore spatial and temporal changes in health inequalities in New York City in an effort to understand the effects of shifts in population composition as well as changes in health care access linked to the introduction of ‘neoliberal’ health and social policies. Health inequalities among immigrant women are an important focus. Second, she is involved in several funded research projects which involve attempting to understand why late-stage cancer rates are so high in certain communities in illinois, particularly among racial and ethnic minority populations, and the role of poor social and geographical access to preventive health services. A third project involves analyzing the effects of spatial aggregation error in statistical models of late-stage cancer risk. Finally, she continues to examine the challenges and constraints that arise when community groups attempt to use GIS to investigate local health and environmental concerns ( Gender, Place and Culture, 2002). Sara may be contacted at

Updated: February 2011