Building Healthy Communities: Making a Difference With GIS

It’s not news that the health of today’s population is at a precarious junction. We are experiencing an epidemic of unprecedented proportions in terms of poor nutrition and physical inactivity across the globe. In fact, the youth of today may, on average, live less healthy and possibly even shorter lives than their parents.

Improving the health of populations is clearly more critical than ever. Thankfully, community leaders, policy makers and the general population have started to realize the important part that good nutrition, healthy eating habits, preventive care, and exercise play in making people healthier.

But what’s not at the center of the conversation is that both community and location play a role in a person’s health. Access to health not only impacts the person but the entire community. The truth is that the place where you live (and have lived) affects how healthy you are and how likely you are to die in any given year.

Geographic information, as well as the type of community or neighborhood you live in, may have as much of an impact, if not more, on your health and your lifestyle habits. This is why healthy communities are becoming a bigger topic for discussion. The concept of a smarter, healthier community stresses the importance of a community designed to increase physical activity and access to healthy food; decrease or minimize injuries, mental health stresses, and the effects of climate change; and improve air and water quality and strengthen social connections.

As location plays an incredibly important role in your health, it becomes clear that geographic information systems (GIS) can also help improve the health of your community. GIS is a software designed to capture, mange, analyze, and display all forms of geographically referenced data. Applied geography through GIS provides the understanding. What’s even better is that you likely already have access to the tools needed. Which is why GovLoop, in partnership with Esri, has produced this industry perspective to further help communities understand how they can analyze geographic information and data in new and important ways to improve the health of each one of their populations.