Mapping Data Shape Community Responses to Childhood Obesity

Journal Article by William M. Sage, Matthew Balthazar, Steven Kelder, Susan Millea, Stephen Pont, Mohan Rao
March 1, 2010

Children's Optimal Health   (Austin*)

This is an article in the Health Affairs journal.  Geographic information system (GIS) mapping can help communities visualize the health of their neighborhoods and identify opportunities for improvement. In Austin, Texas, Children's Optimal Health, a nonprofit association, used GIS to map the prevalence of obesity among middle school children and to identify contributory factors. The maps indicated that obesity is a problem in all Austin middle schools. Two neighborhoods outside downtown Austin have particularly high concentrations of overweight and obese students. Maps also showed that the neighborhoods have different proportions of fast-food outlets, grocery stores selling fresh produce, green recreation space, and students failing cardiovascular testing. The mapping exercise spurred community groups to propose obesity interventions tailored to each neighborhood.