Tag Archives: MUSC

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.

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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.

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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.

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

APTR: Teaching Prevention – Albuquerque, NM

Community Health Mappers had a strong presence at the recent APTR Teaching Prevention conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week.

APTR Teaching Prevention Conference Logo

APTR Teaching Prevention Conference Logo

The theme of the conference was Preparing Students to Address Emerging Issues, and four students presented work incorporating the CHM mapping protocol. Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Nursing students Caitlin Baker and Carleigh Fox presented a  poster on their project “A Diabetes Epidemic in Rural South Carolina.” They used mobile devices to conduct a windshield survey of a rural South Carolina community to better understand the diabetes epidemic.

Caitlin Baker and Carleigh Fox Presenting at the APTR Poster Session

Caitlin Baker and Carleigh Fox (MUSC) Presenting at the APTR Poster Session

Amy Tseng, a student at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, presented a poster outlining her project, “Evaluating of the Wellness for Asian Pacific Americans Using GIS.” This is her capstone project in the Community Oriented Public Health Practice program . One question she is attempting to answer is whether there is a relationship between having a sense of community and the density of Asian Pacific Americans  in a given neighborhood. She is utilizing QGIS and Fulcrum to help answer this question.

Amy Tseng (UW) Presenting at the APTR Poster Session

Amy Tseng (UW) Presenting at the APTR Poster Session

Christina Yantsides, also in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, presented her capstone project, “Bicycle Injuries and Fatalities: A GIS Mapping Project” in both a the Sunday afternoon lightning session, and the Sunday evening poster session. She is using QGIS to help identify clusters of bicycle accidents in Seattle and gain a better understanding of the causal factors.

Christina Yantsides (UW) Presenting at the APTR Poster Session

Christina Yantsides (UW) Presenting at the APTR Poster Session

The final morning of the conference myself, John Scott, Dr.  Deborah Williamson (MUSC) and Dana Burshell (MUSC) presented the “National Library of Medicine (NLM) Community Health Mapping Project.” Often conference attendees are tired by the final morning. However, we were excited to present to a standing room only crowd of about 75 attendees! Collectively we introduced the project and the National Library of Medicine, and went on to show how successfully the project has been implemented from Hawai’i to South Carolina. I heard several audible gasps from the audience as we presented examples. This caused me reflect on the fact that mapping and GIS is simply what I do all day long, however, to many it is still a new and exciting tool. We finished with a quick live demo of downloading data from Fulcrum and uploading it into CartoDB to show how quick and easy it is.

John Scott, Deborah Williamson, Kurt Menke and Dana Burshell Before Presenting at APTR

John Scott, Deborah Williamson, Kurt Menke and Dana Burshell Before Presenting at APTR

Collectively it was a very successful demonstration of how Community Health Mapping can be used by community organizations, educators and students. APTR was a very interesting conference and a great fit for Community Health Mapping. Several conference organizers suggested we teach a Community Health Mapping workshop at next years conference! Looks like we will be back!

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Amy Tseng, Sarah Reynolds, Kurt Menke, John Scott, Deborah Williamson, Dana Burshell and Christina Yantsides at APTR