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talk about Nevada InstantAtlas
on Public Radio
The Office of Statewide Initiatives at the University of Nevada School of Medicine collects a range of data covering population, poverty, health, workforce, and access to health for the 17 counties in the state. The data has been previously published in seven editions of the Nevada Rural and Frontier Health Data Book. The Data Book now has an online version with the Nevada Instant Atlas using online mapping software. We spoke to Tabor Griswold, PhD, health services research analyst, about the new atlas and making population health data more accessible to the public.
How did you find out about InstantAtlas?
I attended the Esri International User's Conference and saw a presentation by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals on its atlas. I have been collecting health data since 2004 and it has been a long-held objective to create an online version. However, the cost of and or programming a website was more involvement than I wanted and InstantAtlas seemed like a reasonably-priced solution.
What does the Nevada Instant Atlas show?
Our new atlas makes it easier to explore, research and download county and regional data. It means, for example, that an indicator of population health can be viewed at a glance for 17 counties at rural, frontier, urban levels as well as state totals (as well as US for some indicators). The atlas allows us to make intra-state comparisons between counties and regions. The data behind the map is also made available.
This level of information is helpful for policy makers when it comes to deciding funding allocations because historically some counties fare better than others, but now they have the data to make better decisions based on past trends in the data.
Who are the main users of the atlas?
The Data Book audience includes legislator staff as well as grant writers. Given our online presence, a variety of different users now have access, such as students as well as individuals exploring Nevada data for use in possible funding opportunities. As we are connected to the public health programme at the University of Nevada, Reno, student interns apply to our Office to learn applied data analysis. They help to retrieve, validate, and use Excel and Access programs preparing the data for import into the Data Book and now into the Nevada Instant Atlas. The atlas is a very useful tool as they can visualize the impact of the data and the reasons for the validation process.
The atlas is also used by clinicians and we had one person in particular, a geriatric specialist who explored the data and wanted to find out about the possibility of developing a geriatric theme of data. We have invited other people outside health (statisticians and economists) to access the atlas and the response has been very positive.
How are you going to develop the atlas?
I’m constantly thinking of ways to develop the atlas. I often come across new data sources and rather than keeping a note of these data until the next Data Book is published, I can include the new data straight away. I’m also looking at the report format to see whether it is possible to start linking the data sets between the online Nevada Instant Atlas Access database and the Access data base used for the print edition. As for exploring the data, I hope people will see a connection between survey data on drug and substance abuse and diagnosis related group codes on substance abuse and mental illness. For example, if you were looking at non-medical use of pain killers (opioid overdoses) you might not think about comparing this survey data with inpatient hospital data and a psychoses diagnosis. My aim is to present the top five diagnosis related codes and major diagnosis categories to present population data from the hospitals - the major providers of health care in rural and frontier counties.
What are the benefits of using InstantAtlas?
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