Tag Archives: Seattle

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.

Noise Pollution and Health in the Urban Environment: A Pilot Project

In October 2013, the Seattle Indian Health Board’s (SIHB’s) Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) completed a noise pollution pilot study. The goals of this project were: 1) to evaluate the feasibility of community data collection and analysis via a low cost GPS/GIS workflow, and 2) to offer recommendations on the feasibility and next steps for scalability to the larger Urban Indian Health Organization (UIHO) network. The collected data could additionally illustrate community health needs when merged with health or other contextual data for analysis, but these analyses were not the primary focus of this pilot. We chose to look at noise pollution because it is an environmental health concern that has been linked to a variety of health conditions in both occupational and community studies and it is easy to measure with portable devices.

For field data collection, we used an iPad Mini with the GISPro and Decibel 10th apps. For mapping and spatial analysis, we used the open source desktop GIS software QGIS (www.qgis.org). While GISPro is a paid iPad app, the other programs are free. Data collection participants were staff recruited from the SIHB’s administrative, clinical and UIHI departments. We selected participants from this pool because they are representative of the staff at UIHOs who likely have limited experience with data collection and GIS. UIHI project staff trained seven participants in the iPad workflow and data collection process. This workflow consisted of five steps: 1) collect noise data with Decibel 10th, 2) export noise data via email, 3) take a site picture, 4) collect GIS data with GISPro and 5) export that GIS data.

Select pictures of data collection sites, taken by study participants using an iPad Mini; Seattle, WA

Select pictures of data collection sites, taken by study participants using an iPad Mini; Seattle, WA

When the volunteer participants were finished with data collection, project staff compiled and analyzed the data using QGIS and Stata. Data were merged with socioeconomic indicators from the American Community Survey by zip code. Participating staff were asked for their feedback about their experience and the usability of the tools.

Average decibel reading at the 17 data collection sites and per capita income of zip codes, location of the Seattle Indian Health Board indicated by yellow star; Seattle, WA; October 2013

Average decibel reading at the 17 data collection sites and per capita income of zip codes, location of the Seattle Indian Health Board indicated by yellow star; Seattle, WA; October 2013

That feedback, combined with the experience of project staff, suggested that the GIS software tools were user-friendly and highly effective. Thus, they are likely to be attractive to organizations with limited technology budgets. However, some of the other resources necessary for this project (i.e. the GISPro mapping app, the iPad and general GIS software expertise) are expensive and may be limitations for many UIHOs. In the future, the UIHI would like to use these tools to better understand the health of the community, as well as assist UIHOs in conducting similar projects in their service area.

For more information about this project, view the project brief at http://www.uihi.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/GIS-Project-Brief_20140604.pdf.

The UIHI is a division of the SIHB and is one of 12 Indian Health Service tribal epidemiology centers (TECs). Unlike the other TECs that focus on geography-specific tribal populations, the UIHI is national in scope, focusing on American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) living in urban areas. The UIHI supports the efforts of Urban Indian Health Organizations (UIHOs) nationally, as they serve the health and social support needs of their urban AI/AN communities.

The Center for Public Service Communications and the National Library of Medicine provided funding for the UIHI to complete this project.