Category Archives: Data Collection

Exploring Accessibility and Sustainability at the University of Maryland School of Public Health

By: Jessica Throwe, Sofia Marmolejos, and Colette Hochstein

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) periodically hosts classes to introduce aspiring
public health professionals to the benefits of using low-cost GIS mapping tools in
community health research. Recently, NLM interns Jessica Throwe and Sofia
Marmolejos, along with NLM Research Assistant Julian Argoti, presented Community
Health Maps (CHM) to University of Maryland School of Public Health undergraduate
and graduate students.

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The first presentation was held during a seventy-five minute “Principles of Community
Health” class of twenty-five undergraduates. A second was provided to a close-knit
class of ten graduate students studying community health and health literacy.
After an introduction to Community Health Maps and to the history and ideology of
GIS/mapping in health research, students used Fulcrum, a mobile data-collection
utility, to create customized forms for collecting data on their mobile phones. They
were then given thirty minutes to explore the classroom building and collect data on the
health topic of their choice. The data collected included the geographic location,
functionality, and visual appearance of the points of interest.

The larger undergraduate class chose a wide variety of subjects, ranging from nearby
bus stops and curb ramps to building water fountains and bathroom stall colors. The
smaller graduate class focused on the school building’s resources, including hand
sanitizer dispensers, bike racks, compost bins, wheel chair accessibility, and food
offerings. After the data collection and review process, problems with the building’s
resources became more apparent, which sparked ideas regarding potential
improvements.

One group noticed that although the school has a new sustainability initiative, of the
twenty locations in the building with trash and recycling bins, only three included a
compost bin. Another group found that the hand sanitizer dispensers functioned
everywhere except right outside the gym, a site where this product is in high demand. A
third group discovered the school has a limited number of locations to purchase snacks,
and that each of these contains just one vending machine which does not offer healthy
food options.

This introduction and exposure to Community Health Maps allowed University of
Maryland undergraduate students to explore the concept of mapping and to make
connections with community health research. UMD graduate students actively applied
the CHM processes to discovering geospatial inconsistencies in their built environment
and to brainstorming areas for potential improvements within the building.
NLM looks forward to learning how students of varied educational levels will apply
Community Health Maps to future educational and professional experiences.

Fulcrum Community

Last year Fulcrum rolled out a new service named Community. They describe it as a, “no cost, short term crowdsourced data collection solution for qualified humanitarian projects.” 

It works like Fulcrum, but you need to apply for a license. The application form is short and is right on the Community home page. In the application you need to describe your purpose and how long you will be collecting data. You also need to provide a project description. If approved you can invite any number of data collectors via email to share  your App (data collection form).  It is generally aimed at humanitarian agencies, non-profits, or government agencies. They restrict commercial use of this service.

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We used this last fall during King Tide data collection in Miami and it was a big success. In fact there are four main categories highlighted on the Fulcrum Community page: Hurricane, Tornado, Flood and Fire. If you click on Flood, the King Tide project is the first in the list. Clicking on it brings up a map with the data collected.

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One caveat is that the data collected falls into the public domain and can be downloaded freely by anyone. This is possible because the data are anonymized, meaning any private information is scrubbed. The data remain available for viewing and download after the event ends.

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It won’t be appropriate unless there is some sort of disaster relief or environmental issue that demands it, but it is another tool to keep in your Community Health Maps toolkit!

Students teach students during University of Maryland CHM presentation

On September 28, 2017, Community Health Maps (CHM) was presented to the  Community Health class at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park. The session was provided by Julian Argoti, research assistant at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), and three University of Maryland Public Health interns completing their capstone project at the NLM. The primary goal was to expose the students to the resource and to help them explore how it might be used in their research.

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National Library of Medicine CHM interns (left – right): Gessica Fleurival, Deborah Bitire and Sofia Epshtein

The presentation took place within a 95-minute class period with 53 students.  The presenters introduced the CHM blog and briefly touched on using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)/spatial analysis to address a public health concerns, as English physician John Snow did in 1854 by mapping the source of a cholera outbreak in Soho, London, and  as a former NLM intern did by mapping local curb ramps to help those with mobility issues cross streets safely.

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Julian Argoti, NLM research assistant, and NLM interns Gessica Fleurival, Deborah Bitire and Sofia Epshtein, discuss CHM with their peers during a University of Maryland class

The students then completed a hands-on data collection exercise. They were introduced to Fulcrum, a low cost tool that allows users to build custom data collection forms for use on iOS or Android devices. Next, they left the classroom to collect data in real time, from the locations of trashcans and water fountains inside buildings to the positions of benches and signs outside them.

The session ended with the students exploring a series of exercises designed to help them through the entire CHM workflow, from field data collection to online data presentation.  A post-class survey indicated that most participants felt they could use CHM in upcoming assignments.

 

 

Mapping South Florida’s King Tides

By John C. Scott – Center for Public Service Communications

Community Health Maps (CHM) recently joined forces with community based
organizations and residents in North Miami, and Florida International University faculty
to map health risks associated with the 2017 King Tides, September 19th and 20th and
again on October 7th , the time of the highest of the inundations.

Several communities in Miami experienced predictable tidal flooding during the highest
tides of the year. The Shorecrest community is among them. Sampling of the
floodwaters during previous King Tides has established that they contain elevated
concentrations of bacteria. The aim of this project was to prepare residents of the
community to record and map data that will help them plan their daily activities to
protect their health, and give them tools to communicate with the city and county about their environmental health risks.

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King Tides flood the streets of the Shorecrest neighborhood while community members collect data.

Complicating the task of collecting data in the community was Hurricane Irma which hit
South Florida only a week before the September measurements, causing dislocation of
residents, power outages and other disruptions that resulted in the decision not to tax
neighborhood residents by expecting them to learn the CHM workflow and map hazards
in the community.

For the CHM/King Tides mapping project, community members were trained on the
CHM workflow before collecting and mapping environmental health data during the King Tides in the Shorecrest community of Miami. A physical tool box containing needed
technology, sampling equipment, key contact information, and protocols for community
engagement in data collection during King Tides was created by Jan Booher of
Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida and Drs. Tiffany Troxler and Susan Jacobson of
Florida International University Wetland Ecosystems Research Lab and School of
Communications, respectively. Based on the initial data collection and mapping effort
with the Fall 2017 tides, a community report will be generated in collaboration with
community leaders to be shared with residents and decision-makers in the community and with appropriate members of City of Miami and Miami-Dade County staffs.

For those of you who are new to Community Health Maps, the initiative was founded on
the premise that community-based organizations, environmental health advocacy
groups, public health agencies are in a better position to serve their constituents when
they can collect and maintain their own data, rather than relying solely on national, state
or city agencies, or majority-institution partners to provide data to them.

The CHM approach involves using relatively low cost tablets and smartphone platforms, combined with a selection of low/no-cost applications that run on them, to collect data in
order to better understand health status or health risks to the community and support
decision-making leading to appropriate allocation of resources to improve health conditions and prevent or mitigate risk. Using the CHM workflow, those data can then
be analyzed, shared and presented using low cost/open source software. These tools
allow expert and novice users, with little budget resource, to implement mapping
workflows.

A common way in which prospective users have learned the CHM workflow is through
our CHM Training Workshops. The CHM workshop presents an opportunity to learn
and discuss new ideas and methodologies, which will empower community
organizations, teachers, and students serving vulnerable or underserved populations
with low cost, intuitive mapping technology. During the workshops, we also share
experiences where the CHM workflow has helped MPH programs and other academic
health centers and community-focused organizations visualize their data and better
understand and portray their significance to the community.

The Florida King Tides was a more ambitious project than usual for CHM. While most
of the work of the CHM team consists of training and building capacity of communities
to map and better-understand their health risk to environmental factors, this was our first opportunity to work in the field with users of the workflow. Together with the core CHM team of NLM, Center for Public Service Communications and Bird’s Eye View, CHM teamed with Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida (UUJF) and it’s The Rising Together project, which works residents in vulnerable communities in coastal Florida about how to prepare for and react to the public health effects of climate change. Through its association with UUJF, the Community Health Maps team also trained and worked with Quaker Earthcare Witness, New Florida Majority, and Florida International University’s Wetland Ecosystems Research Lab and School of Communication and Journalism.

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Map made in QGIS of the September King tide data collection showing flood water salinity levels.

It is our vision that data collected by neighborhood residents about conditions affecting environmental health can be visualized via CHM, together with databases available from city, county, state and federal governments to, as one example, identify potential predictable impact of future king tides so that public transportation and school walking routes can be modified to avoid health risks.

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Map showing water depth in comparison to elevation above sea level

While collecting data for risk maps a Miami Herald reporter stopped by the Shorecrest
neighborhood where we were working. Here’s his story about our initiative.

CHM Lab Exercises Updated!

One of the most valuable resources for Community Health Mappers remains the series of lab exercises created two years ago. Our workshops, while effective, are short and only scratch the surface of what you can do with mapping tools. They are basically a quick start guide to Community Health Mapping. The labs however, can be used as a resource to help you build your skills once you’ve taken the first steps towards mapping your community.

The technology changes rapidly. QGIS produces a new stable version every 4 months. Annually QGIS also produces a long-term release. Carto and Fulcrum also update their tools on a regular basis. This mean the lab exercises need to be updated to keep pace.

The good news is that this spring the labs were all updated and expanded. There is some foundational knowledge needed to really take the next step after a workshop. The current revised set of labs includes Lab 0: A Community Health Map Introduction and Reference. This lab has background on the Community Health Maps project and the workflow. It also contains a Glossary of GIS terms, and several appendices covering: A) available software, B) data sources and C) everything you need to know to better understand coordinate systems and projection.

The remaining labs are as follows:

Lab 1 covers field data collection and has been updated to work with Fulcrum. This has allowed us to unify the exercise into one document for both iOS and Android users.

Lab 2 shows you how to bring your field data into QGIS. This includes a tour of the QGIS interface, and how to map coordinate data stored in a spreadsheet.

Lab 3 is named Combining Field Data with other Organizational Data. It shows you how to work with coordinate systems in QGIS. It also covers how to join tabular data to the attribute table of a GIS layer. This is a step that often has to be done to merge socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census to census geography such as tracts or block groups. It concludes with a lesson on address geocoding. This is the process you use to produce points from addresses.

Lab 4 shows you how to do some basic spatial analysis. You learn how to clip data to your study area, measure proximity, query your data to select features and calculate areas/ density.

In Lab 5 you learn how to use some of the great data visualization techniques found in only in QGIS. The lab then walks you through how to compose a map. Along the way you learn some data styling tricks and how to use the Print Composer.

The series concludes with Lab 6 Data Visualization with Carto. Carto underwent a major update and rebranding since the first edition of these labs were created. You can use this exercise to see how to work with the new Carto Builder interface and tools to create an online map of your results. It covers uploading your data, styling and sharing your map with others.

The four labs that deal with QGIS have been updated to include some exciting new features that have been added to QGIS in the last year. Links to the lab data are included. So head to the Resources page and build your Community Health Mapping skills!

CHM Conducts Three Workshops in Maryland

Last week Kurt Menke traveled to Maryland. Two workshops were held at the Prince Georges County Department of Social Services for people working on homeless issues. All attendees were novices to mapping technology. However, in the first hour they all built a data collection form in Fulcrum and went outside to collect some data around the building.

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Prince Georges County Community Health Mappers

The attendees represented a variety of organizations including many working with YouthREACH Maryland. REACH is an acronym standing for Reach out, Engage, Assist, & Count to end Homelessness. It is an effort to obtain accurate, detailed information on the number, characteristics, and needs of unaccompanied homeless youth in Maryland. Other organizations represented at these workshops included:

  • Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans
  • Maryland Department of Planning
  • Prince Georges Community College
  • St Ann’s Center for Children, Youth, and Familes
  • Maryland Multicultural Youth Center
  • So Others Can Keep Striving (S.O.C.K.S)
  • Sasha Bruce Youthwork
  • Lifestyles of Maryland.

In the final two hours of the workshops attendees learned how to map the data they collected in both Carto and QGIS. We also had time for a brief discussion about how CHM could be used in their projects. There were a lot of ideas shared about how the technology could help community engagement.

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The afternoon workshop attendees feeling accomplished after completing their Carto maps!

After the two PG County workshops, CHM traveled across the Chesapeake Bay bridge to Salisbury University on the eastern shore.

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The following morning we held a workshop geared towards social work students at Salisbury University. Attendees went through the CHM workflow and were introduced to Fulcrum, Carto and QGIS. Below is a map of data collected around the student center in Carto.

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Salisbury University Data Collection in Carto

The workshop concluded with a short introduction to working with data in QGIS.

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Salisbury University Data Collection in QGIS

The next scheduled workshop for the Community Health Maps team will be at the Teaching Prevention 2017 Conference in Savannah, Georgia. That conference takes place from April 5-7th. If you are interested in learning this technology this workshop will be a great opportunity!

CHM Has a Busy Fall with Workshops and Storms!

We had a busy fall giving three workshops in September and October. First Community Health Maps traveled to Spokane Washington to conduct a half day technical workshop at the National Tribal Forum for Excellence in Community Health Practice.

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This event was organized by the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We weren’t certain who or how many would attend, and I expect attendees weren’t entirely sure what Community Health Mapping was all about either. However, it turned out to be a very engaged group representing tribes from many regions of the country. Within a few hours everyone was able to:

  • Create a field data collection form in Fulcrum
  • Collect some data around the conference center on their smartphones/tablets
  • Make a map of their data in Carto
  • Learn how to bring the data into QGIS

This was a typical CHM workshop with most never having done any mapping work before. As such it was a very empowering experience for the participants to learn how to use this technology to map their community in just a few short hours.

From there we traveled to Honolulu, Hawai’i to give a workshop organized by Papa Ola Lokahi. There were two hurricanes (Lester and Madeline) heading towards the islands. Fortunately they both veered off and didn’t cause any damage or disruptions! The attendees came with a plethora of ideas on how mapping could fit into their work including:

A) tracking scholarship recipients of the Native Hawaiian Health Scholarships program,

B) supporting the Native Hawaiian Cancer Network,

C) mapping Dr. Ben Young’s research on historical tracking of Native Hawaiian Health professionals,

D) mapping Native Hawaiian Homelands to provide resource data to providers and community members, and

E) use the CHM “train the trainer” model to increase ongoing trainings for service providers including community health outreach workers and patient community navigators in Hawai’i.

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Papa Ola Lokahi staff learning  how to map their community with tablets and smartphones

After a brief break we headed to Seattle, Washington, again there were two separate storms including, the remnants of Typhoon Songda, bearing down on the region threatening to disrupt power and services! Again fortunately the storms didn’t make a direct hit on the area and the workshop proceeded on schedule.

We went to train students in the capstone course of the Community Oriented Public Health Practice Program at the University of Washington. This is our second year supporting this program. The first year was a huge success with two students attending the APTR Conference and presenting their work.

Like last year we had  a full house with students eager to learn about community mapping. Both first year and second year students were in attendance. Several second year students will submit proposals for consideration, to receive a stipend and support for using Community Health Maps in their capstone projects. Jamie Smeland is the first of the group to be awarded the stipend for her capstone project entitled, “Honoring the Collective Wisdom: Documenting a Cross-Racial and Intergenerational Movement to Shift Power to Youth and Parent Leaders to Improve Educational and Health Outcomes for Students of Color in South Seattle & South King County.” We look forward to working with these students in the coming months.

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UW Community Oriented Public Health Practice Program capstone students learning the Community Health Maps workflow

In the near future we will be offering an updated set of Community Health Mapping labs and a platform for CHM webinars. Stay tuned! In the meantime if you are interested in Community Health Maps and/or receiving CHM training contact John Scott (jcscott at cpsc.com) for more details.