Bayesian penalized spline models for the analysis of spatio-temporal count data

Cici Bauer*, Jon Wakefield, Håvard Rue, Steve Self, Zijian Feng, Yu Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


In recent years, the availability of infectious disease counts in time and space has increased, and consequently, there has been renewed interest in model formulation for such data. In this paper, we describe a model that was motivated by the need to analyze hand, foot, and mouth disease surveillance data in China. The data are aggregated by geographical areas and by week, with the aims of the analysis being to gain insight into the space-time dynamics and to make short-term predictions, which will aid in the implementation of public health campaigns in those areas with a large predicted disease burden. The model we develop decomposes disease-risk into marginal spatial and temporal components and a space-time interaction piece. The latter is the crucial element, and we use a tensor product spline model with a Markov random field prior on the coefficients of the basis functions. The model can be formulated as a Gaussian Markov random field and so fast computation can be carried out using the integrated nested Laplace approximation approach. A simulation study shows that the model can pick up complex space-time structure and our analysis of hand, foot, and mouth disease data in the central north region of China provides new insights into the dynamics of the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1848-1865
Number of pages18
JournalStatistics in medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 20 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • Bayesian spatio-temporal analysis
  • Gaussian Markov random field
  • INLA
  • Infectious diseases
  • Penalized splines
  • Surveillance count data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and Probability


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