Esri is Now Adding “Health Guru“ To Its Diverse Resume

Thanks to Esri and their famous GIS platform the state of Virginia and retailer Walgreens are now contributing to the health of their communities.

If you weren’t already impressed with the location-based system that lets you discover, connect, share, and apply data for community intervention efforts, wait until you read how ArcGIS helped to create a flu index that provides spatial solutions quicker than the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Here are the case studies shared by Michelle Winz, District Epidemiologist at the Portsmouth Health Department of Virginia, from the public and private partnerships highlighted in the online training, “Building Healthy Communities,”.

Case Study 1: State of VA Department of Health and the six patterns of GIS

In October 2014, the city of Portsmouth conducted a community health survey using CASPER (Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response) methodology, in order to:

  • Gain a better understanding of the health at the local neighborhood level
  • Exercise and train public health professionals in using the CASPER methodology for emergency response capacity
  • Gather base-line data for the community health improvement plan to measure progress and strategies identified as healthy
  • Engage specific communities by conducting household interviews
  • Learn and effectively use ArcGIS in the collector map to create spatial analysis maps with health indicators

Here’s how the state used the six patterns of GIS to understand the vulnerable populations’ health status in assess with response planning and strategy development:

Pattern 1: Data collection

The tool, CASPER, is designed by the CDC to collect accurate household level information within a define community in a rapid, cost-effective manner.

Pattern 2: In the field

Using two stage sampling cluster designs, field workers randomly selected households – with the probability of selection being proportional to the estimated number of household units in each cluster.

Pattern 3: Analysis

Domains were used for all answers and coded numerically for data analysis post survey.

Pattern 4: Providing real-time operational awareness

Esri’s Facial analysis software estimated responses in un-sampled areas for real-time awareness, highlighting areas in which to focus health public intervention.

Pattern 5: Engaging the community

According to Winz, “GIS brings data tables to life and gives meaning to our community partners that work in these areas.” The tool created a base-line understanding of the community before a disaster occurred – essential for decision makers who need timely and reliable information about the needs of an effected community.

Pattern 6: Enabling location

The Collector – subset of CAPSER – was loaded onto iOS and Android devices. If collection took place inside a building or in an area without GPS access, field workers were able to place a point manually over the building to capture the data.


Case Study 2: Walgreens and the flu index

Led by Julian Elder, Walgreen’s Enterprise Location Intelligence team partnered with divisions across the entire company to improve the information powering decisions.

“Understanding our customers – where they live, where they work, why they’re shopping us – is the core of what we do and that’s in many ways a spatial question,” said Dave Miller, Senior Director or Marketing Planning and Research. Using WalMap, an application that provides spatial solutions based on location, Walgreens started an initiative to offer flu-shots at nearly every store. Here are the key attributes to the success of the initiative:

Flu activity paired with mapping applications. Because prescription to anti-viral medications is the best indicator of flu activity, the Flu Index was created when Walgreens started identifying sales trends of products relating to the flu virus.

Turn around data inside a week. Walgreens were able to report on where the flu was happening throughout the country in just a week, compared to the CDC’s two-week lag time. This gave credibility to the Flu Index and was essential to a retailer that operated 24 hours per day.

Provided spatial solutions to people who aren’t experts in GIS. WalMap’s basic dashboards allowed anyone in the company without GIS expertise to consume information in a map format

WalMap Pro Mobile for field workers. Mobile feature allowed field workers to look at data about stores in real-time – taking each note against spatial and market share backgrounds. “At the core of how people behave is geography and strategically, having a geocentric approach and thinking locationally is huge. If you’re not, you’re missing out,” said Miller.

For more on how these two public and private partnerships used Esri’s GIS platform, be sure to view the on-demand version of this training here.


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