Mapping health stats and demographics
May 29th, 2005 by JTJ

of the interesting challenges for journalists and public health
professionals is figuring out how to compare, and visualize, health
care statistics in a demographic and geographic environment. 
Yeah, that's one of the things that epidemologists are supposed to do
every day.  But it ain't easy.

In the current issue of ArcUser, Chakib Battioui, of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, has written an interesting article on “Calculating Health Disparity Indexes.”

“Socioeconomic indexes are strongly believed to be associated with the
risk of disease. However, there is no consensus in the United States
regarding which area-based measure should be used to assess
socioeconomic inequalities in health….

   “To study the relationship between the rate of cervical cancer and
economic status, the project used the Socio Economic Risk Index (SERI).
SERI classifies people in public databases based on residential
neighborhood characteristics and permits the calculation of
population-based rates stratified by location….

     “There are technical and conceptual obstacles to the adoption of
area-based measures for public health. Currently, there is no consensus
in the United States regarding which area-based measures should be used
and what level of geography should be used to measure or monitor
socioeconomic inequalities in health.”

The article is worth checking out because of the methodology's potential for application to other types of data.

Better Access to Public Health Infomation
The same issue of ArcUser also carries an article by our old friend Bill Davenhall, of ESRI.  His topic is as broad as the sub-hed above, but the accompanying map is especially interesting. Its caption: “Facing a flu vaccine shortage for the 2004-2005 flu season, Nebraska
public health officials rapidly determined both the current vaccine
supply and the anticipated demand using GIS.”

We're told that there might well be another flu vaccine shortage
this coming winter.  Heads up journos are starting to think now
about how to cover — and illustrate — THAT story.

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