Geospatial Community Aid Emergency Management

In an article from ArcNews Online entitled “Geospatial Responses to Disasters: The Role of Cyberspace”, the role of the internet, online users, and geographic information systems become integrated to help bring disaster relief to those who most need assistance.  With natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis becoming more frequent, national and international emergency management teams are looking for ways to be better prepared and better respond to victims by utilizing new and upcoming technologies. Cyberspace offers methods to strengthen emergency response with digital databases and geospatial technologies. The cooperation between technology and input from online communities, or public participatory technologies, can provide valuable information and data visualization of up to date reports on relief efforts.

“Increasingly, cyberspace plays a role in geospatial responses to disaster in the following ways: (1) revealing the role of virtual communities in disseminating information via new and innovative means (e.g., mobile phones, mashups, crowdsourcing); (2) illuminating the need for interdisciplinary approaches to address disasters where geospatial approaches and technologies are at the forefront; (3) identifying efforts to improve communication through spatial data; and (4) developing long-term strategies for recovery efforts, risk reduction, restoration, and monitoring programs” (ArcNews Online).

Despite its various advantages, there are still other challenges that lie ahead of full implementation. These challenges include: the lack of universal accessibility, data availability, data validity, inconsistent evidence-based performance, and many others.

For more information or to view the full ArcNews article, click here.

Information and picture taken directly from:

ArcNews Online (

Gretchen Grajo, VERTICES intern


MapWalk Promotes Walking Communities

Health Enhancement Systems launched an interactive map that does more than your ordinary map. MapWalk allows users to select a route and the mapping tool calculates the route’s distance and the potential calories burned given a specified speed. Using Google Maps, this interactive map also allows users to plan and save their routes and share it with others, therefore encouraging physical activity and wellness in their communities.

“Health Enhancement Systems is a health promotion company serving organizations in North America and throughout the world. HES has created more than 20 effective wellness campaigns adopted in over a thousand organizations serving hundreds of thousands of participants.” (HES)

For more information on Health Enhancement Systems and MapWalk, click here to view the HES press release.

To access MapWalk, click here.

Direct Source: Health Enhancement Systems

Gretchen Grajo, VERTICES intern

HHS and IOM Launch Community Health Data Initiative

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute of Medicine have joined their efforts in aiming to provide “a wealth of new community health data that will drive innovation and lead to the creation of new applications and tools to improve the health of Americans”. The HHS hopes to utilize public health data productively to inform Americans on their own health and the health of their environment and community.

One aspect of the initiative is to increase the use of present and upcoming technology to educate the public and make them  more aware of existing health information.  The following are potential applications:

  • “Interactive health maps on the web that allow citizens to understand health performance in their area vs. others with tremendous ease and clarity
  • “Dashboards” that enable mayors and other civic leaders to track and publicize local health performance and issues
  • Social networking applications that allow health improvement leaders to connect with each other, compare performance, share best practices, and challenge each other
  • Competitions regarding how communities can innovate to improve health performance
  • Viral online games that help educate people about community health
  • Utilization of community health data to help improve the usefulness of results delivered by web search engines when people do health-related searches and further raise awareness of community health performance
  • Integration of community health-related data into new venues, such as real estate websites, which could be highly effective disseminators of such information”

    (Department of Health and Human Services)

For more information, click here for the Community Health Data Initiative website.

Information taken directly from:
The Department of Health and Human Services

Pictures taken from:
Department of Health and Human Services (
Institute of Medicine (

Gretchen Grajo, VERTICES intern

More Resources for the Gulf Coast Oil Spill

With information on the Gulf Coast Oil Spill becoming more available, VERTICES has also jumped into relief efforts by providing a website and interactive map that offers the latest information on the effects of the oil spill.

The map includes information on areas that have been affected including endangered wildlife, clean-up efforts, impact sites, and more. Layers include the daily path of the oil from April 25th to May 7th.

Click here to access the Gulf Coast BP Oil Slick website and interactive map from VERTICES.


Gretchen Grajo, VERTICES intern

New York Unveils State-wide Cancer Map

The interactive map, tracking the incidences of the various types of cancer in New York, was made available on Monday, May 10, 2010 by the Department of Health. The count of incidences is mapped using census blocks throughout the upstate area. The numbers reported in the map reflect the counts of cancer incidences out of the total population in the census blocks. Information on the total number of males and females are also reported.

However, with the availability of this information, the Department emphasizes that the incidences “represent raw data, merely presenting a count of cancer incidences, and should be interpreted with care”. According to Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, the goal of the project is to identify where cancer clusters exist and use this information to link cancer to “statistical accidents or related to an environmental cause” (NY Times).

The Environmental Facilities and Cancer Map also maps environmental concerns such as the State Superfund Sites, Air Emission Sources, Brownfield Sites and more. This feature allows users to overlay cancer incidences with the environmental sites of interest.

Click here to read the full New York Times article.
Click here to access New York’s Environmental Facilities and Cancer Map.

Information taken directly from:

New York Department of Health, and

The New York Times,

GIS Development,

Gretchen Grajo, VERTICES intern

ESRI’s Gulf Oil Spill Map

ESRI has prepared a map displaying the April 20, 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

More about the oil spill and the map from ESRI:

“On April 20, 2010, Transocean Ltd. reported an explosion and subsequent fire on board the semi-submersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. The incident has resulted in a massive oil spill and has been declared an Incident of National Significance by President Obama.

“This interactive map focuses on the Gulf oil spill and allows you to view location-based feeds, including recent news, and YouTube videos.

You can also place new information on the map, including links to websites, photos, videos, and other relevant information. To add content, simply choose a feature icon, click on the map, and provide a link to your content.”” (ESRI)

To access ESRI’s Oil Spill Map, click here.

Information and picture taken directly from:

Gretchen Grajo, VERTICES intern

Advancing Health Services Through Geographic Technology

As a part of the biomedical informatics seminar series, the GIS coordinator for the Arizona Department of Health Services,
Wesley Kortuem, spoke at Arizona State University addressing the benefits of using geographic information systems in health services.

The lecture emphasizes the functions of GIS that have shaped the way in which health services research and target areas of health risks including disease and other health hazards:

  • High health risk interactive rate maps
  • Visualization of spatial data

“Rate maps are interactive maps which provide health service professionals with information that can be used to plot areas that are at high risk for health hazards and the facilities in those areas capable of providing aid.  Hospitals use this information in strategic planning to develop services for their unique communities.

One of the most useful functions of GIS is the ability to render information in a virtual 3-D space.  “We want to begin mapping the spread of disease within buildings like schools and hospitals.  However, even this is just the beginning.  In this age of google maps and iphones almost any spatial problem is solvable with GIS and emerging technologies,” said Kortuem.”

For more information, click here to see the full article available on ASU’s website.

Sources and information taken directly from:

ASU News [science & tech]

Gretchen Grajo, VERTICES intern