In this month’s edition of Mapping for Good, we’ll take a look at how maps are being used to make sense of the daunting web of resources available to people in need. In a giant city, it can at times be difficult, if not impossible, to figure out where to turn when looking for health resources.
The city of Chicago, Illinois is one that has been in the news lately and unfortunately for all the wrong reasons (aside from the Cubs breaking a 108 winning streak in an incredible seven-game World Series). Violent crime and public health crises dominate the headlines and make understanding the ongoing situation challenging at best. Fortunately, a group of hospitals, non-profits, government organizations and universities has banded together to create the Chicago Health Atlas.
As described by its creators, the Chicago Health Atlas is, “a place where you can view citywide information about health trends and take action near you to improve your health”. The service seeks primarily to achieve two goals. First, it provides extensive information on health trends neighborhood by neighborhood, with public health data covering everything from the prevalence of diabetes and health insurance coverage rates to drug use and murder rates. While such information has been made available to the public in Chicago for decades, Chicago Health Atlas is the one of the first services to take data normally spread across many organizations – and often not online – and centralize it in one place. The ability to compare health data spatially across a neighborhood has made identifying ongoing trends significantly easier for both health organizations and Chicago residents alike.
Secondly, the Atlas allows users viewing particular health data to find resources and health centers for the topic in question. For example, if a resident or health care professional is reviewing the prevalence of mental health issues in a given community, that user can then overlay data that will show where the nearest mental health facility is in the area. This second aspect of Chicago Health Atlas is what sets it apart from similar resource maps found online.
The efforts of the Atlas to provide as much information on neighborhood health in one convenient place reflect a larger trend in making public data available online. Services such as Chicago Health Atlas are likely to be created for other urban cities throughout America and the world as this trends continues to grow.
To learn more about the Chicago Health Atlas and the partner organizations behind the project, visit www.chicagohealthatlas.org.