Tomorrow is GIS Day 2022, and I want to tell you a quick story and offer up a fun challenge.
Yesterday morning I had a chance to meet up with a dear friend from college, Pam, who I see every few years either in Cincinnati or Washington, DC. Whenever we have the chance, we get together for coffee or dinner, as schedules permit.
This week she was in town (Cincinnati) for a few days, and we set up a time to have coffee at a Starbucks in Mariemont, a suburb of eastern Cincinnati. Surprisingly, I’d never been to that part of town, and I had time to kill, so I set my phone’s map app to get me there using the “Avoid Highways” option. Gives me a chance to avoid any I-75 and I-71 highway messes and allows me to see parts of the region I’d not seen. Yeah, I know I was missing the weekly HealthLandscape staff meeting, but I’m the boss, so what are people gonna say?
The drive was 50 minutes of social whiplash.
I don’t know why I was surprised; I’d seen the maps on paper and computer screens. HealthLandscape has for 15 years developed Social Determinants of Health mapping tools, and I’ve lived in the Cincinnati metro area all my life, so I KNOW what the numbers say. But it’s one thing to see the statistics, and another to take a leisurely drive (skipping a staff meeting, remember) and really seeing these areas for the first time.
I wasn’t just noticing areas of deprivation. This was also a drive through farmland, McMansion neighborhoods, brownfields, golf communities, and rows of strip malls. And, yes, areas of deprivation.
It was a great opportunity to compare what I’d seen in maps with what was outside my car window.
So, what is your challenge for GIS Day 2022? There are two parts.
First, pack some snacks and beverage of choice and go for a drive, 35 miles in any direction, avoiding state and interstate highways where possible. You may know the area, but this time PAY ATTENTION. What can you see? Where are the areas with (or without) walking trails and parks? Maintained sidewalks and bike rakes? Are there homes crowded by big box retail stores or overshadowed by factories? This is not a time to judge or evaluate, it’s an opportunity to consider an area’s Built Environment, and think about how that environment enhances (or diminishes) personal and community health.
The second part of the challenge is to come back to https://healthlandscape.org/webinars/ and sign up for a free webinar. In the webinar, we’ll help you use GIS to ‘visit’ these same areas and compare what you SAW during your travels to what is known about your community’s health and wellbeing. If you can’t squeeze in a webinar, let us know and we are happy to show you your virtual community anytime.