• Catherine Nguyen

What can GIS do for Health and Social Work Organizations?

Updated: Jul 12

For the past twenty years, GBA has been helping health and social service providers understand service gaps in their communities using a variety of tools. One especially useful tool is a Geographical Information System (GIS). GIS is a data system that includes geographical location. GBA uses it to transform a static data table into a dynamic community graphic that supports informed decisions and actions.

Take, for example, a chart that shows the share of residents that are low-income (below 200% Federal Poverty Guidelines) for South Sacramento, California. Simple, elegant, and effective, it demonstrates that poverty is a greater issue here than the average for Sacramento County, California, or even the U.S. as a whole.

However, there is more to this story that GIS mapping can reveal. The story is that not all neighborhoods in South Sacramento are equally affected by poverty.

The map above reveals that poverty shows up in higher concentrations (denoted by orange-red colors) along the State Highway 99 freeway corridor (blue line) than along the corridor for Interstate 5. While the chart shows the average percentage of low-income residents, the map shows how these residents are distributed throughout the service area and beyond, which is useful information when making decisions, such as target location for services.

While this is just one small example, GIS is used by a wide variety of health and social service agencies to answer many questions about their clients that have a geographical focus. The following video is a good example of several questions asked by Inland Empire Health Plan about the distribution of their membership and health services available to members. See how they use GIS to conduct a gap analysis to identify neighborhoods that are underserved. Notice too how much more informative this is than simply looking at the ratio of providers to members without the geographical component.

If you have questions about the residential distribution of your clients, service gaps in your area, or you just want to impress your funders with unique and cool graphics, GBA can help. Just reach out to our Director of Analytics and GIS, Warren Jensen.

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