New Maps of DC health data – Not yet one culture of health

Catching up on social innovation I haven’t yet posted about…

I have complained previously about the fact that data purporting to show Washington, DC’s health status as a county is usually wrong (see: Do national numbers inaccurately represent Washington, DC’s obesity condition? | Ted Eytan, MD – Answer: YES) because DC has 8 wards within it that are not accounted for in the County Health Rankings’ of the world (@CHRankings). This makes these tools less useful in a place like our nation’s capital. What if you live here and love this city and want to make a difference?

Community Commons (@CommunityCommon) to the rescue. Earlier this year they so very nicely agreed to add Washington, DC ward boundaries to their most awesome mapping system , and some key health data points based on DC-level data. They even created a special hub “Center for Total Health” that’s invite only so I can bring community health activists to map their city, collaboratively.

Here’s the obesity map for Washington, DC:

Obesity by Ward, Washington, DC USA 51195

Here’s the smoking status map for Washington, DC by Ward:

Smoking Status by Ward, Washington, DC USA 51194

These are new; previously there was no way to understand DC’s health using an interactive system because all of the data is clumped at the county level. As you can tell from the above, if you see an obesity rate of 21 % for “Washington, DC” you’ll miss important distinctions.

Now, here’s the race / ethnicity map for Washington, DC, available by census tract:

Race/Ethnicity by Tract, US Census 2010, with Ward Boundaries  51203

Do you see a picture of different health status on the left side of the map vs the right side of the map?

Wanna play? Click on either map

The new capabilities provided by Community Commons allow us to map any sub-county level data over ward boundaries so we can understand our city better. I even created a few interactive ones that you can play with here. Just click through, you’ll need to create an account on communitycommons.org to make any changes. Up to you.

While I was at it, I also created a map using DC-data-whiz Michael Schade’s (@mvs202) interactive Google Places map, plotting presence of what Google labels “gyms” in a 4-metro station radius of Shaw/Howard University Station:

Heat Map - Gyms in Washington DC 51193

You can see that gym businesses in the Google places database encircle Dupont Circle (14.4 % obesity rate), with a lot less presence east of Shaw/Howard University Metro (17.4 % obesity rate heading into 35 % obesity rate). These distinctions are important – people who spend their time in the western half of the city may believe they own a culture of health, but it’s only they that do.

I mention Shaw/Howard, because I recently read the excellent book S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C. by Ruben Castaneda (@RCastanedaWP) which has stimulated tons of thinking about how a city creates and loses health. More on that later…

Yesterday, I happened upon a ribbon cutting ceremony by our Mayor (@MayorVinceGray) (who has done incredible things for human rights) in that neighborhood. I asked a bystander if she was here during the riots that destroyed this part of the city in 1968. She said, she was, and it was a scary and sad time. I believe her.

Photos: S Street, 1968 and 2014 – next to Shaw/Howard Street Metro

She told me that her friends told her she should have taken photos of the before and after, because so much had changed. I responded that there were still plenty of photos to take – even though the buildings look new, there’s plenty of “before” to be found, the maps show it.

Thanks a ton, again, to Community Commons for being responsive/interested/supportive and no negative vibes meant to County Health Rankings – we are all friends and the two resources go together in the most useful way. Sometimes you have to go to the places that no one else goes to find and create innovation in health. That’s what social innovators do 🙂 .

If you’d like to do some DC mapping, drop me a line/comment/tweet and I’ll invite you to the hub on Community Commons.

 

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