Tag Archives: Miami

Community Health Maps – A Citizen Science Project

At its core Community Health Maps (CHM) has always been a citizen science project. Since the beginning the most used and accessible component is community data collection. This is arguably the most important component as well. The foundation of any mapping project is data. While the world is awash in data, most of it is produced by federal and state agencies and importantly is not created at the community scale.  After several years of teaching CHM workshops, one thing that is abundantly clear is that communities often know the issues affecting their public health better than anyone coming from the outside. With CHM, communities can gather data on these issues via the citizenry.  CHM also allows agencies and NGO’s to leverage communities to crowd-source local data.

What makes Community Health Maps so effective is the workflow based in open source and low cost software. This allows Community Health Maps to be scalable across neighborhoods, counties and larger regions. The technology is accessible because of the low cost of entry. QGIS is open source and free of licensing fees. Fulcrum has a very reasonable subscription rate. The tools used are also intuitive. This has allowed CHM to go into communities and train the local citizens in data collection in just a few short hours.

Pilot Projects

During the spring and summer of 2013 the first two CHM pilot projects immediately demonstrated this citizen science potential:

Seattle

  • Papa Ola Lokahi with the Native Hawaiian and the Indigenous Health Office of Public Health Studies, University of Hawai’i Manoa used CHM to conduct windshield surveys of obesity factors in six Native Hawaiian communities.
Kahala

Obesity information collected in the Kahala commmunity and mapped in QGIS

Both of these pilot project implemented the train-the-trainer methodology. This allowed us to train community leaders, who in turn trained members of the community to collect the data.

Miami King Tides

The most recent and applied use of the CHM workflow in a crowd-sourcing effort took place in Miami in 2017. This is the most disaster-specific project CHM has undertaken and is still engaged in – the mapping of King Tides in Miami. King Tides is a term coined to refer to the highest tides of the year. They tend to come in the fall.

Researchers at Florida International University had already developed a data collection protocol involving data on water depth, salinity, and bacterial contamination. However, they lacked a workflow that would allow the results to be mapped. Plus the existing methodology made participation of the local community too complicated.

kingtidekit

King Tide Data Collection Kit

The training was in two tiers. We first showed two professors at Florida International Universities Wetland Ecosystems Research Lab how to rebuild their data collection form in Fulcrum. We also obtained a Fulcrum Community grant making it even easier to have community members participate. Community leaders and residents were then trained in the data collection protocol and use of Fulcrum.

MiamiCommunityCollection

Members of the Shorecrest community collecting King Tide data

The coalition of mappers included: Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida (UUJF), which coordinated the neighborhood program, along with New Florida Majority and Quaker Earth Care program. Jan Booher with UUJF documented the entire event on her ReACT Tool Kit blog.

A powerful component of a project like this is that local citizens are empowered. They can see what data is collected and how. Plus they have ownership in it. They are collecting data in their front yards, parks their children play in and streets they drive through daily. Their local knowledge improves the resulting data. Often they knew of specific locations where flooding was worst that should be captured. These locales would have otherwise been overlooked.

Data gives people a window into low-income communities that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Booher said. “People have confidence in data and can use and share it—even people who cannot articulate information can advocate for themselves. This process can give people a voice.”

This CHM data collection now happens annually and is available as open data via the Fulcrum Community page. This data allows people to create valuable maps which communities and academics alike can use to convey the situation to decision makers.

Booher added, “Maps have a way of communicating in a dispassionate way that is fact-based.

Shorecrest_Salinity_19_20

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

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.

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.