Community Health Analysis

After giving the Health Geography Primer at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, Dr. Roberta Goldman (anthropology) wondered if we could use GIS to redesign a community health analysis module for residents’ behavioral health rotation. Residents often have no prior experience with geography or GIS, so I knew we would need three things:

  1. a very simple and free GIS program capable of high-quality geographic data visualization on any residents’ computer. The solution was indiemapper
  2. a fairly comprehensive database of socioeconomic variables indicative of community health outcomes with geographic units below the county level (Rhode Island only has five counties). The solution was the CDC Social Vulnerability Index. I have complied the CDC Social Vulnerability Index data for Rhode Island into an indiemapper map file, available here.
  3. a set of instructions that will enable residents to explore geographic data interactively at home without frustration or technical support. Download a pdf of the instructions here.

This activity design promises to have even greater impact if it includes geographic distributions of health outcomes. To this end, I’ve compiled a similar activity for Vermont, including Lyme disease data from 2015. Download the exercise here: Instructions, and Indiemapper Map File.

 

Geographic Vulnerability Analysis Exercise

Vulnerability of Population to Flood Risk in Malawi
Vulnerability of Population to Flood Risk in Malawi

My experience reading national climate change adaptation plans from developing countries is that their vulnerability analysis and synthesis could be improved with geographic analysis! In response, Eliza Drury and I reviewed and developed guidelines for Geographic Vulnerability Analysis in Developing Countries. I took Eliza’s geographic vulnerability analysis work on Malawi in ArcGIS and translated it into an exercise in open-source QGIS: GIS software any developing country planner or NGO can afford! The exercise is designed for anyone who has already taken an introductory course in any GIS software. I gave the exercise to my seminar in Geographies of Climate Change Adaptation and Development in Spring 2016 and edited it based on student feedback. Several students then successfully applied GVA in their own research projects.

Geographic Vulnerability Analysis in Developing Countries

Eliza Drury worked with me over the summer of 2015 in the Climate and Development Lab at Brown University to analyze geographic analysis in national adaptation programmes of action and apply geographic vulnerability analysis to the test case of Malawi’s climate change adaptation plans. We wanted to test whether adaptation plans really prioritized the places where climate change vulnerability is greatest, as defined in the adaptation planning process itself. We found that very few countries used geographic vulnerability analysis, but that the method helped improve the quality of proposed adaptation projects (see diagrams below).

National adaptation planning without geographic vulnerability analysis does not recognize interactions of vulnerability between sectors or develop projects cutting across sectors.
National adaptation planning without geographic vulnerability analysis does not recognize interactions of vulnerability between sectors or develop projects cutting across sectors.
National adaptation planning with geographic vulnerability analysis. Improvements are signaled with red font color. GVA helps identify interactions of vulnerability between sectors and plan cross-sectoral adaptation projects targeting the most vulnerable locations.
National adaptation planning with geographic vulnerability analysis. Improvements are signaled with red font color. GVA helps identify interactions of vulnerability between sectors and plan cross-sectoral adaptation projects targeting the most vulnerable locations.

We reviewed methods and guidelines for national adaptation planning provided by developing countries by the UNFCCC and Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG), and found that geographic analysis was recommended, but guidance was out of date. In response to this, Eliza took on senior work in environmental studies with myself and Dr. Timmons Roberts to update guidance for developing countries to use geographic vulnerability analysis using Malawi as an example case. She presented this work at the climate change research conference in Bangladesh and fulfilled an invitation to write a summary of the work for the Dhaka Tribune.

As final products, we are publishing a Technical Guide to Geographic Vulnerability Analysis (with Eliza as lead author) and an applied Geographic Vulnerability Analysis Exercise.