Online Program

Using the American community survey and geographic information systems to improve community health needs assessments

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ashley Miller, BS, School of Public and Nonprofit Administration, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI
Stephen Borders, PhD, Community Research Institute, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI
ISSUES: The late Tip O'Neal once said that “All politics is local”. The same is true for health, yet most health needs assessments tend to focus on large geographic areas (i.e. county or city level) that tend to mask disparities due to social, economic and environmental conditions at the community level. As part of class project, we set out to better analyze and identify health disparities at lower geographic units of analysis (census tract) in Kent County, MI using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the American Community Survey (ACS). DESCRIPTION: We examined the relationships between the socioeconomic factors and health outcomes to select ACS variables for analysis. These socioeconomic variables (poverty, single-parent households, education) often predict where health disparities are most likely to occur. After selecting and mapping the variables, we analyzed the cumulative impacts of the socioeconomic variables to understand where health disparities are most acute within the county. LESSONS LEARNED: By examining publicly available data among Kent County's 128 census tracts and mapping the results, we were better able to identify specific areas within a larger geographic area such as Kent County where the socioeconomic variables would suggest vast disparities in health outcomes exist. Improved identification of areas likely to suffer from health disparities can lead to more appropriate and effective interventions. RECOMMENDATIONS: Work with hospitals and health systems required by the Affordable Care Act to conduct community health needs assessments to improve the focus and targeting of interventions in reducing health disparities.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate how the American Community Survey can be used to identify health disparities. Identify approaches to improve community health needs assessments.

Keyword(s): Needs Assessment, Community Health Planning

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I worked closely on this project as part of a semester-long class project and then as a student project for the past 9 months and played an important role in data selection and analysis.
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.