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Torbay Council has created a website bringing together knowledge and intelligence from different perspectives (such as the local authority which serves the resident population of Torbay and the Clinical Commissioning Group which serves the GP registered population of South Devon and Torbay). This enables a wider understanding of the needs of the population within the South Devon and Torbay community. InstantAtlas interactive mapping software was used to display intelligence which forms part of a wider Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) for South Devon and Torbay. JSNAs provide an analysis of the health needs of populations to inform and guide commissioning of health, well-being and social care services. We spoke to Rachel Bell, Public Health Intelligence Analyst, to find out more about the project and how InstantAtlas was used.
How did you find out about InstantAtlas?
Before working with Torbay Council, I had only seen IA used by national and regional public health bodies such as the Child and Maternal Health Observatory (CHIMAT) or the National Obesity Observatory (NOO). When I joined Torbay Council they had already purchased a license for the software with the intention of making their JSNA a more interactive experience for the end user. Torbay Public Health team (before transitioning to the local authority) had previously developed Excel based tools that proved to be time-consuming to create and update and were more challenging for people to understand and use. The ambition was that IA would be easier to develop and refresh from an analyst perspective and, most importantly, be easier for people to use through a website. I was tasked with bringing this project to fruition and began researching local examples of IA use, such as the products offered by Bristol City Council, for inspiration.
How did you find using the mapping software?
I used the online tutorials and training manuals, but didn’t have any formal IA training. It did take some time to get everything as I wanted because I’m not particularly tech savvy; however, the InstantAtlas support team was very helpful when I needed more support. As for the data, there was a lot of work involved to collect the historic information. Now this is collated and included in the tools, it a relatively simple task to add in new data as it becomes available.
How does the website work and how is it being used in practice?
The InstantAtlas tools forms part of our local knowledge and intelligence website: www.southdevonandtorbay.info. The website features three types of IA JSNA tool: community asset tools, population tools and profiles tools.
The community asset tools provide point in time, area based analysis of health indicators as well as the location of physical assets in South Devon and Torbay. Asset maps provide two different types of data within the one map. The data can be used individually (just LSOA data or physical assets plotted on a map background), or in combination (LSOA data overlaid with physical assets). They can be a good way of graphically connecting (on an ecological level) an asset with demographic or health data to make best use of the asset or highlight potential gaps in community assets. For example, the location of Children’s Centres against the proportion of children under five years of age or the location of schools over relative deprivation rank.
The population tools provide area-based analysis of current and historical resident and GP registered population for South Devon and Torbay. The key feature of this tool is the age and sex population distribution (population pyramid) that is generated for a selected area. It’s about making information mean something to people in a non-intimidating way.
The profile tools provide point in time, area based health summaries as well as individual indicator comparison for South Devon and Torbay. The key feature of the tools is the indicator spine chart that is generated for a selected area. This shows whether an area is significantly different compared to the South Devon and Torbay average for a range of health and demographic indicators. The idea is that this tool is similar to national public health tools such as the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF) but provides intelligence at lower local geography levels.
Together, the three tools provide area-based evidence that can be used to inform local strategy, plan services, tailor preventative intervention and aid funding bid applications.
What sort of feedback have you had?
We have done some promotional workshops demonstrating the tools and website within the council. We also visited our local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), hospital trust and umbrella agency for the local community and voluntary sector. We find that the ability to display data by the boundary area relevant to each local agency (such as by electoral ward or by CCG locality) greatly increases the engagement with and usefulness of public health information for our partners. This gives added value over regional and national public health data portals which generally do not report data at these lower geography areas.
Although we haven’t done any formal evaluation as yet, Google Analytics indicates the tools are being well used, both by new and repeat users. An example of where the tools are being used is by local schools. They use the profile tool and the community asset tools in combination to build a health and demographic picture of their catchment areas. Also information from the tools has been used in various Torbay Council reports and to support voluntary sector funding bids.
We have found the charts and maps are what people want to use and also that we need to provide demonstrations of how to use the tools to help build people’s confidence so that they can interrogate the information themselves. This is an opportunity for us to develop in the future.
What are the next steps for the interactive tools?
The JSNA is a significant piece of work therefore data and data used within the interactive tools is only updated every two years. This means that some information is out of date and will be requiring a refresh soon. Going forward we are planning to include a future resident and registered population projection tool using the same InstantAtlas population pyramid template that we have used previously. This should help our partners to plan services and improve population outcomes for the future at their specified local geography area. We would also like to include a tool that allows users to look for associations between two variables such as the association between deprivation and premature mortality.
What are the benefits of using InstantAtlas?
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