Improving access to public health data using interactive maps for a range of stakeholders in the Fraser Valley, Canada
Fraser Health provides a wide range of integrated health care services to more than 1.6 million British Columbians living in communities stretching from Burnaby to White Rock to Hope. Its services range from acute care hospitals to community-based residential, home health, mental health and public health services. It is one of Canada's largest and fastest growing health authorities, with over 22,000 employees, 2,500 physicians and nearly 6,500 volunteers. We spoke to GIS Analyst, Geoff Ramler in the authority’s Population Health Observatory about software mapping and the way it is being used to improve decision making.
What were you looking for in a software mapping solution?
Our stakeholders need data and information to help them make decisions about the way healthcare and other services are delivered. With a wide range of individuals using this data, from municipal planners and city managers to healthcare staff, we had to make sure it was presented in a way that was easy to access and understand. Keeping up with these individual requests for data and analysis was creating a challenge for the Observatory. We needed a way to put information into the hands of our stakeholders, and at the same time, lighten the load on our team.
How did you first hear out about InstantAtlas?
InstantAtlas was first brought to my attention by an epidemiologist working with my team, who was impressed with its capabilities. After an evaluation alongside three other software solutions, InstantAtlas came out on top due of its low cost and simple setup. The fact that we didn’t need to bring in any new resources to create an atlas was a big plus for us. Within a day we had something that we could bring to management.
How did you find using the software?
Population Health data comes from a wide variety of sources, which can be difficult to navigate. Having it all consolidated into one single tool has been a big help for both our team and our clients. Updating the atlas is simple, allowing us to share new data as soon as it is available to us. We are also able to tweak and improve the interface without hiring a contractor or investing in training. When we needed help, the IA support desk was there every step of the way – there was always someone available and interested in how the project was developing.
What sort of feedback have you had?
The response has been very positive. Having the most relevant data in a single tool has been a great help to all our audiences, especially those who might struggle with interpretation. We’ve put together a couple of PDF tutorials explaining how the tool operates and we’ve found that people already know what they want to do with it after the quick three-minute explanation.
How will you be developing the interactive maps?
Over the next few months, we plan to develop a new atlas to disseminate the results of a community health survey that we completed last year. It is a really interesting data source that measures factors contributing to healthy living, such as physical activity, transit and commuting patterns, eating habits and lifestyle choices. This data is collected at the neighborhood level, and people are interested in seeing how their communities compare. With respondents from 127 neighborhoods across Fraser’s 20 municipalities, a static report isn’t able to offer the same level of detail as an interactive atlas.
What are the benefits of using InstantAtlas?
Other case studies from Canada
Sudbury and District Health Unit - Health planning in Sudbury and District, Ontario and how mapping software is helping planners answer questions about local communities
Public Health Ontario - ‘How Public Health Ontario (PHO) has developed an interactive online platform using mapping software to deliver timely and relevant analytical products to the public health community’
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