GIS as a Community Engagement Tool: Developing a Plan to Reduce Infant Mortality Risk Factors
This article describes how a community coalition focusing on maternal and child health engages community participation through the use of geographic information systems (GIS) mapping, developing strategies that culminate in the implementation of a service delivery plan to improve birth outcomes. Vital statistics data from 2007 to 2009 was analyzed by zip code in Pinellas County Florida to produce choropleth thematic maps using ArcGIS for 3 year rolling average infant deaths and single year percentages for prematurity. The maps were presented at the organization’s annual coalition meeting to discuss risk areas, changes over time in the selected indicators and solicit community feedback on how to best target issues addressing infant mortality and prematurity. The maps identified new zip codes of concern for prematurity in addition to known high risk zip codes for both infant mortality and prematurity. The community identified changes in demographic composition and changes in housing patterns, such as new mobile home areas, in the high risk areas. In response, the community assisted the Coalition in developing a holistic plan addressing risk factors affecting birth outcomes by expanding current services, hiring a nutritionist, and contracting a health navigator. When compared to tables and charts, a visual depiction of a neighborhood by recognizable zip codes is a useful tool to help community decision makers better visualize public health concerns and interpret trends based on local knowledge. Public health professionals should use this community knowledge to interpret research results and implement strategies to improve birth outcomes.
KeywordsGIS Mapping Infant mortality Prematurity Community
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