Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mapping our Health

I ran across digital cartographer Eric Fischer's Flickr site the other day, and perused his new series of maps on race and ethnicity in the nation's 40 largest cities. Below are two examples of the maps, featuring Los Angeles and San Francisco. The maps use the Census 2000 data, with each dot representing 25 people and colors corresponding to race (red=Caucasian, blue=blacks, orange= Hispanics, green=Asian). The striking geographic divides are clearly evidential in many of the cities, which can provide valuable information for learning tools and various community development endeavors.

I can't help but think of the myriad of applications when looking into race and other demographic factors like income, mortality, and per capita resources, especially with the Census 2010 data soon to be released. Specific to health care, imagine the wealth of information that could help develop strategies and outreach programs for issues like access limitations to health services, disease progression, and chronic disease management to name a few. For example, integrating data from multiple sources like hospitals, health plans, and health care providers can reveal important information regarding health costs, the effectiveness of treatments, and other factors so we in the medical field can make well-informed decisions when weighing treatment options. Real-time surveillance data could even help track and combat infectious disease outbreaks. The sheer volume of data needed for these efforts is staggering, but is becoming reality. Electronic health records will be central to this effort, and health reform also includes a number of provisions to improve data integration including insurance market data transparency and the new Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute which will help to synthesize the latest research for efforts in comparative effectiveness.


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