Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Repost] Putting Chronic Disease on the Map: Building GIS Capacity in State and Local Health Departments

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From http://www.cdc.gov/DHDSP/maps/GISX/

 

It is good to see these efforts to survey and prevent chronic diseases.  As stated at the US Administration on Aging Web site…Older Americans are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases and conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease, as well as by disabilities that result from injuries such as falls. More than one-third of adults 65 or older fall each year.

From the 2 August 2013 summary at Full Text Reports

Techniques based on geographic information systems (GIS) have been widely adopted and applied in the fields of infectious disease and environmental epidemiology; their use in chronic disease programs is relatively new. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention is collaborating with the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and the University of Michigan to provide health departments with capacity to integrate GIS into daily operations, which support priorities for surveillance and prevention of chronic diseases. So far, 19 state and 7 local health departments participated in this project. On the basis of these participants’ experiences, we describe our training strategy and identify high-impact GIS skills that can be mastered and applied over a short time in support of chronic disease surveillance. We also describe the web-based resources in the Chronic Disease GIS Exchange that were produced on the basis of this training and are available to anyone interested in GIS and chronic disease (www.cdc.gov/DHDSP/maps/GISX). GIS offers diverse sets of tools that promise increased productivity for chronic disease staff of state and local health departments.

August 4, 2013 Posted by | Health Statistics, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

Geographic information systems demonstrate links between health and location

From the 10 April 2012 Eureka news alert

San Diego, CA, April 10, 2012 – The neighborhoods in which children and adolescents live and spend their time play a role in whether or not they eat a healthy diet, get enough exercise or become obese, concludes a collection of studies in a special theme issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Each of the six studies uses the latest concepts and methods in geographic information systems (GIS)-based research to determine how the geographic location affects physical health. A study titled “Spatial Classification of Youth Physical Activity Patterns” shows, for example, that while rural youth get the largest proportion of their physical activity while at school, urban and suburban youth are most active when commuting. Not only does this finding suggest that the walk to school might be just as important to some children’s health as is the physical education they receive as part of the school curriculum, it is also important given that adolescent health behaviors are predictive of behaviors in adults.

Another study by researchers in the United Kingdom concludes that adolescents in rural areas ate fast food more often when fast-food outlets were easily accessible, whereas the opposite was true for adolescents living in urban areas. The researchers, led by Lorna J. Fraser of the University of Leeds, conclude that although the need continues to exist for nutritional education regarding fast food, placing restrictions on the location of fast-food outlets may not decrease consumption of fast food in the same ways in all areas.

Brian E. Saelens and Lawrence D. Frank, along with their colleagues, authored two papers for the theme issue. “Obesogenic Neighborhood Environments, Child and Parent Obesity: The Neighborhood Impact on Kids Study” evaluated child and parent weight status across neighborhoods in Seattle and San Diego and ultimately found evidence that GIS-based definitions of obesogenic neighborhoods that consider both physical activity and the availability of healthy food options were strongly related to childhood obesity.

In a second study, the researchers used GIS-based measures to determine the ‘walkability’ and proximity to healthy food of certain neighborhoods in the San Diego and Seattle regions. The study recommends that such measures be used to study physical activity, nutrition and obesity outcomes.

In a paper titled “Obesogenic Environments in Youth: Concepts and Methods from a Longitudinal National Sample,” Janne Boone-Heinonen and colleagues describe the challenges inherent to longitudinal neighborhood environment research, as well as the insights they gained and the advances and remaining gaps in study design. The researchers note that understanding which neighborhood environment features influence weight gain in various age groups is essential to effectively prevent and reduce childhood obesity.

Two commentaries included in the theme issue examine the ways that computer-based GIS systems—which transform geospatial data into visual representations of the real world—can help prevent childhood obesity. “Thinking About Place, Spatial Behavior, and Spatial Process in Childhood Obesity” by Stephen A. Matthews, outlines the content of the theme, concluding that although GIS is not a panacea, it “offers an important means of better understanding and dealing with some of the most pressing problems of our time, and provides valuable tools for researchers and policymakers alike.”

The second commentary, providing a perspective from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, notes that while GIS is still in the relatively early stages of application in the field, it might one day enhance understanding of the complex and dynamic connections between people, their health and their physical and social environments.

April 10, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Mapping food deserts

Mapping food deserts

From the March 3 2011 Eureka news alert

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Maps are great for showing where things are. They’re also good for showing where things aren’t.

Two Michigan State University professors have developed interactive maps that offer a visual perspective of urban food deserts. By using GIS (geographic information systems) technology, they are showing, rather than simply telling, how urban residents are losing access to fresh produce and balanced nutrition.

Phil Howard, assistant professor of community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies, and Kirk Goldsberry, assistant professor of geography, conducted their research in Lansing. They found that many supermarkets have closed their stores that serve urban areas and have moved to the suburbs. They also showed that Michigan’s state capital is a model for what’s happening to food environments around the country.

“The change in food environments is recurring all over the nation,” said Howard, whose research is supported by MSU’s AgBioResearch. “The best selection of produce and the lowest prices have moved to the suburbs. So if you want lettuce in Lansing, or in most U.S. cities, you’re going to have to drive to get it.”

One aspect on which the study focused was store locations. It showed that less than 4 percent of the population lived within a 10-minute walk of a supermarket. The researchers also looked at the cost in reaching those stores as well as the availability of produce at each retail location. They took into account everything from urban party stores, which may offer lemons and limes, to suburban box stores, which offer nearly 250 different produce items.

By taking actual food inventories and pairing that data with geospatial inputs, the team was able to precisely measure geographic access to produce sections. What was revealed was a tale of two food environments. First, people with cars can overcome many geographical obstacles to obtain fresh produce while pedestrians’ ability to obtain fresh produce is becoming increasingly challenging, Goldsberry said.

“I like to think of it as a nutritional CAT scan at the urban scale,” Goldsberry said. “The Lansing food model definitely favors drivers because the stores with the best selection of produce are furthest from the densest population areas.”

The maps give residents, city officials and community organizations an outreach tool to visualize their food environment. Having a highly detailed method to examine each city’s food environment provides a graphic illustration of areas where produce is abundant and where it’s lacking, Howard said.

“When people see a map, people gravitate to their neighborhood and make a decision about how it stacks up to others,” he said. “They see a high-resolution image of their food environment that literally allows them to point out disparities and geographical challenges in their communities.”

 

 

March 4, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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