In a new project funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers will be able to visualize socio-economic data at the community level when looking into public health issues.
“Socio-economic disadvantage is one of the fundamental factors that result in health disparities; and understanding those factors is what will lead to development of interventions to reduce disparities,” said Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., director of NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. “Having a tool to better understand social factors impacting health disparities is an important step forward to achieving health equity.”
Developed by Dr. Amy Kind, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the project known as Neighborhood Atlas, allows researchers to analyze socio-economic data at the neighborhood level through web-based color-coded maps.
The data is based on the “Area Deprivation Index,” which includes 17 measures of education, housing quality, income, employment and poverty, from the American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census and is calculated using “advanced statistical techniques to sum them into a single score,” ranking them on a scale with 1 being the least disadvantaged and 10 being the most disadvantaged, according to Kind.
With the type of data Neighborhood Atlas offers, Kind explained that healthcare professionals would be able to “get a sense for the environment that a single patient is living in, interacting in, and sometimes be recovering in.”
She added that, for example, practitioners would be able to see if a patient who suffered from a heart attack, has access to the healthy foods at the neighborhood level during the recovery and rehabilitation process.
“At a community population level, we start thinking about novel ways of targeting programs and bring stakeholders together who may not have collaborated in the past,” Kind said.
The Neighborhood Atlas maps show the western and eastern portions of Montgomery County, including Olney, Potomac, Bethesda, Damascus, as least disadvantaged. The most disadvantaged include neighborhoods in Germantown, Rockville, Glenmont, and Silver Spring.