Human health is known to be affected by the physical environment. Various environmental influences have been identified to benefit or challenge people’s physical condition. Their heterogeneous distribution in space results in unequal burdens depending on the place of living. In addition, since societal groups tend to also show patterns of segregation, this leads to unequal exposures depending on social status. In this context, environmental justice research examines how certain social groups are more affected by such exposures. Yet, analyses of this per se spatial phenomenon are oftentimes criticized for using “essentially aspatial” data or methods which neglect local spatial patterns by aggregating environmental conditions over large areas. Recent technological and methodological developments in satellite remote sensing have proven to provide highly detailed information on environmental conditions. This narrative review therefore discusses known influences of the urban environment on human health and presents spatial data and applications for analyzing these influences. Furthermore, it is discussed how geographic data are used in general and in the interdisciplinary research field of environmental justice in particular. These considerations include the modifiable areal unit problem and ecological fallacy. In this review we argue that modern earth observation data can represent an important data source for research on environmental justice and health. Especially due to their high level of spatial detail and the provided large-area coverage, they allow for spatially continuous description of environmental characteristics. As a future perspective, ongoing earth observation missions, as well as processing architectures, ensure data availability and applicability of ’big earth data’ for future environmental justice analyses.
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