GIS Data Visualization: Indispensable for Policymakers and Community Leaders

The Data! Fostering Health Innovation in Kentucky and Ohio conference proved to be a showcase for GIS technology in practice.
The Data! Fostering Health Innovation in Kentucky and Ohio conference
proved to be a showcase for GIS technology in practice.

Geospatial data visualization is an indispensable tool for policymakers and community leaders, as evidenced by yesterday’s Data! Fostering Health Innovation in Kentucky and Ohio conference. Although the conference was not intended to be a showcase for geospatial information system (GIS) technology, almost every presenter used geospatial data visualization and analysis to tell their story. In many cases, it was the story.

Here are three highlights from the day.

GE Aviation Uses GIS Data Visualization to Improve Employee Health

GE Aviation is using a customized version of HealthLandscape‘s Site Performance Explorer to bring common sense and creativity to its efforts to improve employee health. For example, GE used to spread a “Stop Smoking” message only among its workers. Now the company uses GIS data visualization to see the prevalence of smoking in the communities that surround its sites. When a visualization shows high smoking rates, GE extends its nonsmoking promotions throughout the community because the company recognizes that employees are more likely to stop smoking if their friends and family members don’t smoke. GE uses their customized app to address other health issues as well, such as improving employee access to primary care providers and promoting health screenings.

Why GIS? Because GIS data visualization draws attention to factors within a community that can directly affect an organization.

The City of Louisville Tackles Asthma Using GIS Data Visualization

Ted Smith, Chief of Economic Growth and Innovation for the city of Louisville, Kentucky, is using GIS data visualization not only to improve residents’ health, but also to increase the region’s economic vitality.

Statistics show that Louisville has extremely poor air quality–among the worst in the nation–making it a challenging place for people with asthma to live. High asthma-related emergency room admission rates and poor air quality scores make it difficult to attract and retain businesses. Smith has initiated a program with Propeller Health to supply Louisville-area residents with GIS-equipped inhalers. Each time a patient uses their inhaler, sensors record when and where the puff was taken. Analysts then combine inhaler data with weather, air pollution, traffic pattern, and other large data sets to look for ways to intervene, on both the patient and the policy level.

There have already been some surprising findings. For example, residents generally avoid living on the city’s west side, where large industrial complexes are located and pollution levels are perceived to be high. Data have shown, however, that particulate matter levels are much higher in Louisville’s wealthiest neighborhoods, likely due to weather patterns and the city’s topographical characteristics. GIS data visualization shows just how pronounced the difference is.

Why GIS? Because GIS data visualization can show truths that run counter to our intuition.

Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Councils of Government Uses Crowdsourcing to Map Bike Routes 

Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Councils of Government (OKI) wanted to create bike route maps for Northern Kentucky and Ohio. They tried traditional outreach methods (e.g., email, meetings) to engage the cycling community. Their most successful effort was a survey conducted at local bike shops. They received a total of 34 responses.

OKI decided to try a new approach: crowdsourcing. They created a simple online mapping platform and invited the cycling community to add bike routes to the online map. They also invited riders to share their experiences with those routes. The resulting Bike Route Guide is now a permanent part of OKI’s website (click here for the link).

Why GIS? Because GIS data visualization can invite participation and community engagement in a way that traditional methods do not.

At HealthLandscape, we strive to create GIS data visualization tools that don’t require GIS specialists to use them. We want you to be able to make your data accessible, “mash it up” with other data sets, and use the visualizations to ask questions and formulate solutions to your community’s challenges.

To learn more about our GIS data visualizations, attend one of our free webinars.

Introduction to HealthLandscape
In-depth instruction on using HealthLandscape, our free online mapping tool and data library
Thursday, December 5, 2:00 pm ET
The Community Data Portal
In-depth demonstration of our award-winning data dissemination tool
Tuesday, December 10, 2:00 pm EST
Visualizing Data with HealthLandscape
Overview of all of our data visualization tools, including the Site Performance Explorer
Tuesday, December 17, 2:00 pm ET

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