Updated: Tuesday, 05 May 2009, 10:32 PM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 05 May 2009, 10:03 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - By the end of this summer, Austin residents might be able to
look at a map, and see how many kids around their neighborhood are
Doctors may also soon be able to look at a map of asthma patients by neighborhood, and determine if building materials or environmental features are causing asthma in patients. Those two examples are part of the reason why Austin area hospitals, schools, and non-profits, have partnered together to map health care problems in Travis County, based on neighborhood-level data.
"The real dilemma was how do we affect neighborhoods," said Diana Resnick, a VP of Community Care with the Seton Family of Hospitals and board member of Children's Optimal Health.
Children's Optimal Health has hired workers to map four social and health issues in Travis County; obesity, prenatal care, student achievement as it relates to public subsidized housing, and access to health care. Board members say agencies are sharing data with unprecedented cooperation, in order to make children healthier in Austin.
"The data is very, very carefully used so that it is not identifiable, so that nobody's compromised in any way," said Resnick.
For instance, the Austin Independent School District has shared
the Body Mass Index of each student in a de-identified manner.
State law requires school districts to check the Body Mass Index of
"We de-identified so you can't tell what student," said Resnick. "But you can tell where we have areas in our community where the Body Mass Index is higher."
Based on preliminary data, Children's Optimal Health board member Ellen Balthazar, also the executive director of Any Baby Can, has focused more of her outreach efforts to an area around North Lamar and Rundberg in North Austin. Children's Optimal Health is using the area as a mini-case study with the data sets to learn about different social needs.
"The information we've been able to see has helped us figure out how we can redistribute our outreach," said Balthazar.
She said more of her social workers are on the ground in that
neighborhood based on data that shows a higher concentration of
obesity. Officials have not come up with a hypothesis for the
higher concentrations, yet, Balthazar said the data convinced her
there may be more underlying problems in the area.
"Without some pretty good data that tells me there's a pool of opportunity there where our services are needed," said Balthazar. "we probably wouldn't go to that level of staff commitment."
The end goal of the mapping program is to help "link and leverage" different social agencies, schools and health care partners to think about new ways to affect neighborhoods. Resnick said more than 90 agencies and non-profits are collaborating to use the data. "Where are the hot spots, where are the services?" said Resnick. "Can we move some of the services to the hot spots?"
Resnick said her staff hopes to unveil a map of obesity concentrations based on Austin neighborhoods by the end of this summer.