Category Archives: Data Visualization

A Pair of Community Health Maps Workshops at the ASTHO Climate and Health Summit

During the last week of May the Community Health Maps team (Janice Kelly, John Scott and Kurt Menke) traveled to Honolulu to participate in the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Insular Area Climate and Health Summit. There were representatives from:

  • American Samoa
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Guam
  • Palau
  • Puerto Rico
  • Marshall Islands
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Hawaii Department of Health
  • Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA)
  • ASTHO
  • CDC
  • NOAA
7516756736_IMG_4910

Insular Climate & Health Summit Group Photo

The first afternoon was focused on the impacts of climate change, preparedness and building resilience. There were great presentations on climate change (Capt. Barry Choy – NOAA), an overview of the tools and programs available from the CDC (Paul Schramm), and issues with vector-borne diseases and mosquitoes (Janet McAllister).  The ASTHO grantees then gave some some sobering presentations on current issues people are dealing with in the Mariana Islands, Micronesia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

img-7852.jpg

The opening session

The second day focused more on tools and resources. There were more detailed talks given by the CDC on Technical Assistance for Vector Control and Tools and Resources for Climate and Water Safety. That afternoon we taught a 3.5 hour Community Health Maps Train-the-Trainers workshop to a group of health officials from each territory.  We went through the entire CHM workflow: A) how to design a data collection form, B) how to collect data, C) how to make a map in Carto and D) how to bring the data into QGIS.

The last morning we taught a second Community Health Maps workshop open to everyone. We had about 30 attendees and again went through the entire CHM workflow.

img-7880.jpg

John Scott addresses the attendees on the final morning

Most of the trainees had little to no GIS training yet instantly knew how mapping could apply to their work and lives. They want to map everything related to hurricane relief, salt water resistant taro farms, infrastructure related to mosquito outbreaks etc. A benefit of having the community do this is that they can be in charge of their own data and it helps build community relationships.

Over the three days I heard a lot of side discussions about the usefulness of the free/low cost/open source CHM approach. The cost of proprietary solutions is often a significant barrier to entry into the world of community data collection and mapping. We were gratified to hear some very positive feedback on the workshops and CHM overall during the closing session. There seems to be a lot of potential in CHM helping both U.S. Territories and ASTHO deal with the immediate and long-term health issues related to climate.

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.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_d1f4

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.

Shorecrest_Salinity_19_20

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.

depthMapElevation

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.

A Busy Summer with a QGIS Conference in Denmark and FOSS4G in Boston

This summer Kurt Menke first attended the 3rd Annual QGIS User Conference, Hackfest and Developer meeting in Denmark. From there he traveled to Boston to attend the Free and Open Source for Geospatial (FOSS4G) International Conference. 

TriptoNodebo

Trip Map Created in QGIS using Live Layer Effects

The QGIS conference was small and intimate and a lot of new information was shared by the developers about the future of QGIS.

1k0a4924

QGIS Conference

There was so much presented that this will be a separate future blog post. While there Kurt conducted a full day workshop on Data Visualization and Cartography in QGIS.

DG3tVwdXUAAnHgy

Kurt Menke teaching about Data Visualization & Cartography in QGIS

He shared many of the new sophisticated and powerful data styling tools now found in QGIS including: 2.5D, 3D, Live Layer Effects, Inverted Polygon Shapeburst Fills, Blending Modes, and some plugins such as Time Manager. Perhaps this could be a workshop shared with CHM partners at a future date? Some examples are shown below:

FeatureBlendingDK

Use of Blending Modes to highlight road density

Manhattan3D

Lower Manhattan displayed in 3D via the QGIS2ThreeJS plugin

Cyclones

Cyclones Annually from 1950 – 2015 in QGIS with the Time Manager plugin

In Boston Kurt presented the Community Health Maps project. The talk was well attended and there was a lot of interest. Fulcrum was a sponsor of the conference, and Kurt was able to meet with several of the Fulcrum representatives. While there he learned about Fulcrum Community. This is a new initiative designed to help humanitarian agencies, non-profits, NGOs, or Government entities. To begin you need to request a Fulcrum Community account. One important caveat is that data collected via a Fulcrum Community account is anonymized, free, and open to all by default. It is essentially an initiative that will help in larger crowd sourcing efforts. More details will be forthcoming as Kurt explores this and how it may apply to Community Health Mappers.

This month (September), Community Health Maps will be travelling to the University of Connecticut (Community Medicine and Health Care) and to Miami to teach workshops. The workshop at the University of Connecticut will be to a large diverse audience. The Miami workshops will be focused on showing community members how to map damage and issues related to King Tides.

Stay tuned for blog posts on: 1) the future of QGIS, 2) Fulcrum Community, 3) experiences in Connecticut and 4) Miami.

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.

file-mar-02-9-35-57-am

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.

file-mar-02-9-27-09-am

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.

file-mar-02-9-27-49-amv2

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.

2017-03-02_095000

Salisbury University Data Collection in Carto

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

2017-03-02_094159

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!

GIS as an Educational Tool at MUSC

Submitted by Jennifer Rewolinski

Dr. Deborah Williamson is an Associate Professor in the College of Nursing at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Charleston. Dr. Williamson, Community Health Maps (CHM) and MUSC have partnered in providing training that integrates GIS and CHM tools for a high school Teen Health Leadership Program. Dr. Williamson has worked with both community members and students.

wilmsnd

Dr. Deborah Williamson (MUSC)

Dr. Williamson believes that, “GIS has the potential to substantially increase community engagement and is truly a concept of the neighborhood taking control of their data.” She notes that while researchers might study a community, that a community’s input is essential to understanding the cultural and environmental context surrounding health issues: “GIS mapping puts the community members on more of a level playing field with their research partners.” GIS can empower and educate community members to identify their key issues, to become a part of an analysis, and to provide solutions. When communities are given the opportunity to map their own health, discovery, and awareness, positive changes can result.  When a community feels it has more of a say through engagement with GIS, or communication with a map, intervention is more likely to be effective.

For the past three semesters, Dr. Williamson has used GIS in her own classroom as a capstone project for population health students.  They, “find it fun and can take it with them into other settings, it fits into the world of new technology, and it takes people to the next step of looking at health issues.” Mapping offers a different way to help students visualize Social Determinants of Health and to make the connection between what population health is, and the factors that promote or deter it.

IMG_9585_v2

MUSC students presenting their capstone work at the APTR Conference in Albuquerque (April 2016)

Finally, Dr. Williamson sees GIS as bi-directional: it supports visualizing gaps and assets while also providing the ability to disseminate and build on information via intervention programs to improve health outcomes and strengthen communities. GIS is also broadly applicable to almost any discipline and easily used by those with little expertise. “Presenting raw data to a community or students doesn’t mean a lot,” Dr. Williamson comments, “but when that same data is aggregated visually it instantly communicates a message to any audience.” GIS is clearly suitable as an effective educational tool in the classroom and in communities.

CHM thanks Dr. Williamson for her continued collaboration and time spent advancing the CHM program through use of the CHM tools at MUSC. CHM values our partnership with MUSC and hope that the future is as mutually beneficial as the past few years.

Field data collection for the CHM workflow bridges the divide between learning in a classroom and experiencing conditions in a community. For the capstone project, students use CHM labs and parts of the CHM workflow, including phone data collection with iForm or Fulcrum, integration of the data into QGIS, and presenting the data with Carto or Google Maps. Dr. Williamson’s students often upload their data from iForm to Google Maps because of its familiarity and easy access.

One student project involved identifying migrant camps as a community in need, and assessing the community through surveys and key informant interviews.  When the data showed that migrant workers often lack knowledge of health information and access to healthcare services, students mapped locations of migrant camps near Charleston, SC in relation to urgent care facilities and shared the data with the migrant outreach workers from a local community health center. Later, an intervention was developed to provide hands on CPR and first aid instruction to 60 workers. This project displays successful application of CHM tools in an educational and community context resulting in an intervention that may offer real change.

CharlestonMigrantMap.png

Map of MUSC Population Health student’s capstone project showing the locations of migrant camps and urgent care facilities in Charleston, SC.

Mapping Curb Ramp Accessibility around a Silver Spring, MD Assisted Living Facility

Submitted by Jenny Rewolinski, University of Maryland, B.S. Community Health 2016

I just completed a spring internship with the National Library of Medicine (NLM). My goal was to demonstrate what a typical user of the Community Health Maps (CHM) blog might experience, while using the low cost resources it reviews to develop a mapping project with a public health focus. I read through the case studies on the CHM blog and used its labs to develop my project plan and to guide my related decisions.

Because of my experience with elderly relatives and my background in public health, I centered my project on how the senior population of a nearby Assisted Living Facility might safely navigate local sidewalks. According to the 2014 American Community Survey, 23% of people over 65 have some sort ambulatory disability. With this in mind, I decided to map local curb ramps –sloped transitions between sidewalks and streets which function as accessibility enhancements to help those with mobility issues to cross streets safely.

JennyDataCollection

Figure 1. Curb Ramp Data Collection using the iForm app

I used CHM Lab 1: Field Data Collection to learn how to design my own data collection form using iForm. My Curb Ramp form captured curb ramp location, conditions, and other observations such as seniors using the curb ramps, steep or damaged curb ramps, and a lack of sidewalks in the area. As discussed in a prior blog post, How Accurate is the GPS on my Smart Phone?, phone geolocation is usually accurate up to 8 meters. This was not precise enough for my curb ramp data, so I corrected for this on my form.  Over the course of 8 hours spanning 2 days, and with 2 other interns I collected 103 existing curb ramps and locations where curb ramps might aid accessibility.

iFormCurbRampForm

Figure 2. iForm Curb Ramp Data Collection Form

Next, I brought my iForm curb ramp data from my phone into the QGIS software by using instructions from CHM Lab 2: Bringing Field Data into QGIS.  I also used CHM Labs 3: Combining Field Data with Other Organizational Data and CHM Lab 4: Basic Spatial Analysis  to add data layers and to perform spatial analysis to finalize my map.

Map

Figure 3. Curb Ramp Accessibility of Senior Population of Silver Spring Assisted Living Center Map

This is my project map! I completed construction of my map using CHM Lab 5: Cartography with QGIS. In addition to my curb ramp data points, I added data layers for sidewalks, roads, places of interest (such as grocery stores, restaurants, bus stops,  theaters), and my Assisted Living Facility. My goal was to raise awareness of how accessibility can impact seniors’ sense of autonomy and empowerment, and their ability to exercise and to lead a healthier lifestyle. This map also provides recommendations for where more curb ramps should be placed based on observations during data collection. I plan to discuss this map and curb ramp recommendations with the city of Silver Spring and to create “safest route” guides for popular local destinations.

SafestRoute

Figure 4. A Safest Route Guide example showing safe and dangerous routes based on location of curb ramps and sidewalks

GIS has a huge potential to help us analyze health issues. When I began my project at NLM, I thought I would simply be mapping the location of curb ramps near a local Assisted Living Facility; however I discovered the significant need for more curb ramps as well as sidewalks around my project area.

I believe the conclusions I was able to reach by using the low cost CHM resources CHM are accurate and workable. I came to NLM with little to no GIS knowledge yet I learned from the CHM GIS labs, collected curb ramp data points and created a map that may bring awareness to a public health issue. In doing so I believe my experience is typical of many CHM users.

If I can do it, you can too!