Communities: Buffalo, NY, Grant County, NM, Greenville, SC, Kingston, NY, New Orleans, LA, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, Rochester, NY
While children spend much of their time with technologies that promote sedentary behavior, research on children’s physical activity and eating still relies on low-tech measures for observing children and surveying communities.
Policy makers, advocates and government officials are discovering new ways to use technology to understand and reshape the built environment (Hillier, 2008). Learning what resources and conditions exist near where children spend the majority of their time is critical to understanding their exposure to environmental risks associated with obesity (Austin et al. 2005; Pasch et al. 2007). Maps produced by GIS (Geographical Information System) and GPS (Global Positioning System) can uncover gaps in data and highlight strengths in an easy to understand format. Compared to a report filled with tables and numbers, data displayed visually in maps can make a stronger statement for childhood obesity prevention efforts among stakeholdrs and major decision-makers.
Buffalo, NY: Mapping the Food Environment
One of the primary objectives of the HKHC Buffalo partnership is to assess the current environment to better understand the opportunities and challenges community members face in creating a healthier city. The first year of the partnership’s assessmentfocused on the food environment. A key partner, the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab in Buffalo, reviewed the existing physical, regulatory and stakeholder environments as it pertained to opportunities for healthy eating in the City of Buffalo. As a part of this assessment, the city identified target neighborhoods with a high density of youth, a high percentage of youth living in poverty and limited access to a vehicle. In addition to these factors, the location of retail food destinations, especially those around public schools, were considered. Turning assessment into advocacy, the partnership sent the maps and information to the City Council. One council member is now pursuing a healthy retail initiative and the partnership is planning a larger coordinated advocacy effort resulting from the Buffalo Food Policy Summit held in Fall 2011.
Grant County, NM: Putting Mapping Tools in the Town’s Hands
HKHC Grant County recognized the need to asses and improve its pedestrian infrastructure as many of the Silver City municipal employees walk to work. HKHC partners collaborated with students from the University of New Mexico, Hidalgo Medical Services Residency Program and the Town of Silver City to create a survey tool to analyze and prioritize pedestrian infrastructure projects. Participants walked the streets and color coded maps based on the presence of sidewalks, curbs and barriers to safe walking. These maps were then digitized into the ArcGIS mapping program where they were spatially analyzed. The town can now update the maps to set benchmarks and gauge progress on future planning efforts including the implementation of their Complete Streets Policy. Community input sessions are also part of the Pedestrian Bicycle Routes Master Plan. The Town will identify priority transportation corridors based on where residents live and travel.
Greenville, SC: Mapping Neighborhood Data to Provide a Platform for Policy Change
Along with a key partner, the St. Francis Bon Secours Health System, the HKHC Greenville partnership is assessing their neighborhoods around three main issues: walkability, bikeability and access to healthy foods. In the African-American neighborhood of Sterling, focus groups, door to door surveys, and store assessments were conducted. Staff, residents and volunteers used the Nutrition Environmental Measures Survey (NEMS) tool to measure availability, pricing and quality of foods at food stores and restaurants within the community and within a half mile buffer surrounding the community. After assessing street conditions using the Walkability and Bikability Suitability Assessment (WABSA), the partnership added health indicator data with the walkability and bikeability and access to healthy foods of their neighborhood. Based on information gleaned from these maps, the partnership identified residents’ needs and successfully strengthened funding requests, including an urban farming start-up grant. The HKHC Greenville partnership is also assessing higher income comparison neighborhoods to further build the evidence base to affect policy change.
Kingston, NY: Engaging Community Members in Interactive Mapping
The HKHC Kingston partnership is using mapping to promote their Safe Routes to Schools and Parks goals. A GIS Community Mapping Team developed a geodatabase of information to make maps that include school enrollment and walking zones around schools, barriers to walkability, and desired routes to school. Much of the base GIS data was provided by the Ulster County Information Services and Planning Departments. In addition, a small group of trained volunteers conducted walkability audits with a GPS unit to gather information about barrier to pedestrians in Kingston. The partnership has also held interactive mapping sessions using a poster-size map to assess community members’ desires for the future. In a series of events entitled “Paint the Picture,” community members gave their input regarding their vision of a Healthy Kingston through art, maps and interviews. In addition, partners have used the same technique to collect bicyclists’ wishes for future bike amenities and infrastructure. The GIS Team digitized the feedback to produce maps that express the community’s vision for change. The various maps produced by the partnership are being used to communicate the community’s desired changes to decision-makers such as the city officials, engineers, and planners.
New Orleans, LA: Mapping to Inform City-Wide Safe Routes to School and Planning Efforts
The KidsWalk Coalition in New Orleans has focused on walking and biking issues in their mapping work. The Coalition conducted walkability surveys around each public elementary and middle school in the city. Criteria included sidewalk, signage, crosswalk quality, and curb ramp conditions. The Coalition then combined these criteria into a score and assigned color-coded grades to each school on a city map. These conditions were overlaid with data on poverty rate and population of school aged children. The partnership used this information to identify priority schools for Safe Routes to School funding, connect with school leaders and provide potential funders with compelling data. On a broader scale, the KidsWalk Coalition evaluated accessibility conditions throughout the city to develop an ADA Transition plan. It is helping the City identify destination clusters like schools, parks, and art, to create a “heat map” of high priority areas using GIS data provided by different organizations. These maps will be featured in an ADA Transition Plan and will foster a continued relationship between the City and the HKHC partnership.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA: Using Mapping to Power Policy and Personal Healthy Changes
The City of Rancho Cucamonga uses their GIS division to help redesign communities for healthier living. GIS is used as a City Management tool to prioritize resources. The HKHC partnership, Healthy RC, used GIS to locate neighborhoods that lacked green spaces, had limited access to grocery stores, or lacked infrastructure to enable residents to walk or bike safely. After identifying community needs, the City held forums where residents used maps to identify amenities or challenges, and develop strategies to increase access in their neighborhoods. These strategies led to increasing areas in the city zoned for community gardens and farmers’ markets. The City’s GIS division incorporated these features into mobile applications (i.e. iPhones, laptops) that provide stakeholders with the opportunity to address any potential issues related to walkability in real-time. Recently, the City’s GIS division launched their first mobile application (“RC2GO”) for iOS devices. In addition to providing users with the ability to access City-specific resources such as parks, schools, access to trails and restaurants that participate in the “Healthy RC Dining” program. This application allows users to provide specific feedback to the city `and instantly upload geo-tagged images (i.e. potholes, graffiti) to City servers for rapid response. The City also manages a Healthy RC Challenge online tool that encourages healthier choices by giving residents an easy way to track exercise and diet. Participants can even measure their own walking and running routes by directly drawing them on an interactive city map. The site has routes for exploring the city, and participants can create and save multiple walking, running or biking routes and share them with others.
Rochester, NY: Mapping to Improve Places for Children to Play and Be Active
The Rochester Healthi Kids partners used mapping as part of their “Playability Plan” development process, which assessed barriers to accessing safe places for children to play. Each Playability Planning Committee developed its own plan that included a map of the neighborhoods with a consistent format. Each map highlighted where children play overlaid with the percentage of young children living within each census block group. Organizers convened resident stakeholders who pinpointed problem areas and identified playability plan improvements. Healthi Kids continues to work with residents and policy makers to implement the recommended changes. Their goal is to create playable neighborhoods that are models for traffic control, safety, play equipment and facilities. Another positive result of the Playability Plan maps includes the “Recreation on the Move” program, which brings recreation equipment to neighborhoods in need of safe places to play.
Mapping is a spatial tool that provides an alternative view of a community’s health by visualizing access to healthy eating and active living opportunities. Mapping can be used to assess current conditions, set goals, measure progress and advocate for change. HKHC communities in Buffalo, Grant County, Greenville, and New Orleans have engaged in partnerships with universities with GIS expertise to help assess the built environment. Community members have informed map content in all HKHC efforts through events, community meetings, and/or committee participation. HKHC partnerships like Rochester and Buffalo have engaged residents further by utilizing the maps as advocacy tools, while municipalities in Grant County, Rancho Cucamonga and New Orleans are incorporating maps into future planning efforts. Finally, mapping can be used to sustain the work of HKHC communities by strengthening applications for further grant funding as Greenville, SC, and New Orleans, LA, have done.
Austin, S. B., S. J. Melly, B. N. Sanchez, A. Patel, S. Buka, and S. L. Gortmaker. 2005. Clustering of fastfood restaurants around schools: A novel application of spatial statistics to the study of food environments. American Journal of Public Health 95 (9): 1575-81.
Hillier, A. 2008. Childhood Overweight and the Built Environment: Making Technology Part of the Solution rather than Part of the Problem. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 615 (56)
Pasch, K. E., K. A. Komro, C. L. Perry, M. O. Hearst, and K. Farbakhsh. 2007. Outdoor alcohol advertising near schools: What does it advertise and how is it related to intentions and use of alcohol among young adolescents? Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 68 (4): 587-96.