Online Program

Application of geographic mapping to community advocacy and environmental health policy-making

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

William Scheider, PhD Epidemiology & Community Health, Dept Social & Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health & Health Professions, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Erin Heaney, BA, Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, Buffalo, NY
Rebecca Newberry, BS, MS, Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, Buffalo, NY
Maps of the geographic distribution of environmental hazards, adverse health outcomes, and related demographic and socioeconomic factors comprise an evidence base that community organizations can use to advocate with legislators and regulatory agencies for policies that address the community's environmental problems. Maps and data required to create maps may be available from state health departments and government environmental agencies. Data can also be collected by community organizations using simple environmental sampling equipment and surveys developed and conducted by community members. A variety of geographic information systems mapping software of varying complexity and cost is also available. Interpretation of maps of environmental exposure and health outcomes presents several challenges, including the ecological fallacy; artificiality of borders of census, political, and postal geographic units; the potential to gerrymander geographic areas to suit a particular hypothesis; and difficulty taking into account confounding factors for which data are not available. Developing a complementary relationship between professional and local knowledge can help counter these limitations. Professional expertise from public health agencies and academia can help communities navigate technical problems in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, while community residents can provide contextual and specific knowledge of sources and impacts of environmental hazards and mediating factors in their neighborhoods. A team of professionals and residents can present a many-faceted and compelling case to legislators, regulatory agencies, and the media to implement solutions to environmental problems of concern to the community.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe the types of information geographic mapping provides that community organizations can use to assess environmental health problems and advocate for policies to address those problems Explain precautions and challenges in interpreting geographic maps of environmental hazards and health outcomes Explain the complementary relationship between professional and local knowledge in using geographic maps to assess environmental health problems and advocate for policies to address those problems

Keyword(s): Geographic Information Systems, Advocacy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked with the Clean Air Coalition of WNY on air pollution issues for 4 years. I have interpreted for the community exposure maps created by the NYSDEC and cancer and asthma maps created by the NYSDOH. I am working with two UB MPH students and a Geography graduate student to use NYS Cancer Registry data and US Census data to create cancer incidence, demographic, and SES factor maps for the Clean Air Coalition.
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.