Innovative Public Health Care GIS Applications

GIS Presentation

This fall, Dr. Jack Hill, ORSP Director of Innovative Collaborative Programs, and Dr. Amanda Scarbrough, Assistant Professor of Health Services and Promotion, presented a talk, “Innovative Public Health Care GIS Applications,” during the Applied GIS (Putting GIS to Work) segment of the Texas GIS Forum, the preeminent annual gathering of GIS professionals throughout the state.

During the presentation, Dr. Hill and Dr. Scarbrough discussed the potential to apply GIS technologies across the public health care field, a possibility which SHSU has been actively pursuing. Applying GIS technologies to the field of health care would require the integration and analysis of diverse, updated, and (at times) proprietary data from such fields as: health, finance, education, sociology, environment, geography, and informatics.

There is a genuine need to define and map the accessibility to community health resources or assets (i.e., health facilities, education, recreation, transportation, and shopping [i.e., food, medicine, etc.]) and conduct associated spatial gap analyses and ranking. In support of these gap analyses, GIS has also recently been effectively applied to map and expose such community health related disparities as food, medicine, and play “deserts.”

ORSP’s new GIS Center and College of Health Sciences are actively working on projects with university (SHSU and Universidad de Iberoamérica [UNIBE]), county (e.g., Montgomery County United Way), regional, and country (Costa Rica) level not-for-profit health care focused organizations. The purpose is to provide the capacity and tools to more systematically and quantitatively generate the necessary metrics and maps to measure, visualize, communicate, and enhance the impact of their various programs in the context of community health outcomes.

Furthermore, the relationship between existing assets and of social determinants of health are also being emphasized. Through a more quantitative and systematic understanding of existing community resources and needs, as well as funding effectiveness that is directly associated with measurable impacts on community outcomes, these not-for-profits will be able to more strategically create improved partnerships between existing community based organizations with the objective of creating healthy communities.

Dr. Hill's presentation describes the specific tasks, deliverables, and outcomes for each health care not-for-profit’s GIS project that SHSU is presently working on.