179033 A case study of the advantages of GIS as a community-assessment tool

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sara R. Graham, BS, MPH(c) , Department of Global Health, Loma Linda University School of Public Health, Loma Linda, CA
Donn P. Gaede, DrPh, MPH , Department of Global Health, Loma Linda University School of Public Health, Loma Linda, CA
Brad Jamison, PhD , School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
BACKGROUND Community assessments and data gathering are an integral function of community health programming. Community-based organizations and their leaders must be able to access this data in a user-friendly manner. Public health students training in data gathering and application used GIS as their primary tool for asset-based research.

PURPOSE The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the advantages of GIS to the community leaders in the Westside community of San Bernardino, CA, so that they will be able to make evidence-based decisions regarding their programs. An additional reason for using GIS for this type of research is that it facilitates the practical application of the beginning researcher's assessment data. METHODS For this project, data points were collected for various establishments including: small businesses; abandoned houses; hospitals; restaurants; transportation and advertisements, and environmental hazards. After obtaining this data, the information was aggregated and maps were created using ArcGIS software. Various layers were highlighted to portray significant findings. RESULTS GIS data was collected for many churches and several other community-based organizations. GIS data also revealed a high number of fast food restaurants and liquor stores within 600 yards of at least seven different elementary schools showing an obvious barrier to better health. A number of environmental hazards were also identified. DISCUSSION The GIS maps were presented to the community partners who were surprised to learn of all that was in their community. They were excited by the results and engaged by the practical, usable data that GIS provides because it is visual, applicable and easy to understand. This adds support that GIS is a valuable tool in asset-based community assessments that yields a higher quality of research and subsequent opportunities for health improvement of communities worldwide.

Learning Objectives:
By the end of this session participants: •Will be able to explain the benefits of using GIS for community assessments. •Will be able to give an example of how GIS is important in decision-making. •Will be able to identify the advantages of GIS as a tool for beginning public health professionals.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: There is no conflict of interests. It is original, objective and completed research that I conducted.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.