School of Public Health at The University of Texas InstantAtlas_FreeTrial

Making data available to the community through easy-to-use data presentation tools

The Institute for Health Policy (IHP), based in the School of Public Health at The University of Texas, contributes to improving public health by developing creative ways to bridge the gap between scientific research, practical programs and policy solutions. The IHP brings its technical expertise and non-partisan analysis to health policy issues, with special focus on the Texas and the Texas-Mexico border areas.


The Institute aims to disseminate health data in a user-friendly way and is involved in ensuring the results of the recent 2010 Health of Houston Survey are available throughout the state. This is the first year of the survey which is based on the California Health Interview Survey – the largest state health survey in the United States. We interviewed Dr. Thomas Reynolds, research associate at IHP. He represents the team at the IHP who are all involved in using data presentation software. Thomas’s experience includes the application of geographical information systems technologies and he has been involved in developing several web-based local and regional health data query and dissemination systems.

Thomas explains that IHP plans to run the Health of Houston survey (HHS) biennially and be able to provide multiyear analysis of health data across the Houston Metropolitan Area. The main data set of Health of Houston Survey 2010 is currently available at the IHP website ( and InstantAtlas is being used to present these data in an interactive online format. The image below highlights reports which are being used for HHS2010 dissemination

health of houston survey 2010 report

InstantAtlas Single Map dynamic report - 'Health of Houston Survey 2010' Single Indicator report

The audience for the IHP analysis comprises local health-oriented and community organisations, health care providers as well as academic and research institutions. The benefit for local community organisations is that they don’t have to hire in the expertise to show that they have a grasp of local community needs. “Understanding patterns of deprivation is important for these organisations because it inevitably helps with their funding,” says Thomas. He adds that the organisations use InstantAtlas interactive maps, charts and tables and export them to PDF documents which are then included in applications for funding.

The ease of access to geographic displays makes the biggest difference to survey potential users. Anyone working for a non-profit provider organization can reference their service area and immediately see where the unmet needs are and how severe they are relative to those in other areas. This makes planning for needs and targeting resources much more accurate and at no extra cost to the potential users. The bottom line is that with InstantAtlas displays, more organizations will use the survey data and the evidence base for public health programming will be improved overall.

Making the project work

Thomas says that InstantAtlas data presentation area profiling is a useful tool. “One thing I like about it is that once I have set up a template new data can be imported easily allowing me to quickly generate many reports. Others in the team like the interactivity and have found InstantAtlas easy to use.”

Thomas believes that data visualization software is an important part of IHP’s work and it currently ensures the HHS 2010 data reaches a wide audience.

state level health mapping

InstantAtlas Area Profile dynamic report - 'Health of Houston Survey 2010'

Key benefits

  • IHP is making data available in a visually stimulating way to all survey data users.
  • Community organisations do not have to buy in expertise to help with their funding applications.
  • Local health organisations can use data from the survey for community health assessments, program evaluations and resource allocations.
  • Data presentation tools are integral to explaining and facilitating the use of the results of the 2010 Health of Houston Survey.
  • Users find the data presentation and analysis software easy to use and understand.

Other InstantAtlas global public safety stories and reports that will interest you

CDC - How the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has used data reporting and visualization to develop its Disability and Health Data System (DHDS)

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (based at the University of Washington) - Helping people interested in global health view, understand and evaluate high-quality health data

Global Health Reporting- Compilation of international health stories

INCAP (Guatemala) - How data presentation is helping health ministers in Central America target intervention programmes

AEDI (Australia) - Using interactive reports to show a nation’s progress in early childhood development

National Institute for Health and Welfare (Finland) - How data presentation is helping the National Institute for Health and Welfare Finland meet its statutory requirement on health monitoring and addressing health inequalities at local area level

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News and Articles


Arizona Department of Health Services | ‘Making data presentation meaningful when dealing with low rates of population density’


The Institute for Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of Texas | ‘Making data available to the community through easy-to-use data presentation tools’


Public Health Organization – ”Using data presentation to aid the policy-making process”