Monday, February 13, 2017

Improving an outreach service by analyzing the relationship of health information disparities to socioeconomic indicators using geographic information systems

In this article, the authors discuss the use of GIS within libraries. Libraries began using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) with US Census data in order to "combine, analyze, and present information" for use in the public sphere. The example given in this article is that of the Preston Medical Library in Knoxville, Tennessee, who began using GIS and Census data to improve their outreach of health literacy and information amongst the public. The Preston Medical Library operates a free phone-in health information line, the Consumer and Patient Health Information Service (CAPHIS). 

Using a database of calls to CAPHIS, the US Census data from 2000, socioeconomic data from the US Census ACS of 2005-2009, and the map making technology of ArcMap, the Preston Medical Library was able to create a map that showed the frequency of calls into CAPHIS in the state of Tennessee. They first began by organizing the number of calls into CAPHIS, by zip code, between June 30, 2009, and July 1, 2011. They then downloaded a map of the counties of Tennessee, and plotted the zip codes onto this map. The socioeconomic data for age, poverty, and disability was then added, to the map. 

The image above is one of 6 maps created to show the correlation between calls into CAPHIS, and socioeconomic factors. This particular map shows the rate of calls into CAPHIS, and the rate of disabilities within Tennessee counties. What is shown in this map, and the others not pictured, is that in many counties, fewer calls into CAPHIS have some sort of correlation with socioeconomic factors such as age, poverty, and, in this case, disabilities.

After analyzing each of the maps, it was determined by the Preston Medical Library that a total of 31 zip codes in 14 counties within East Tennessee had not met their health information needs, and therefore were prime locations for more health outreach from local libraries. After completing this research, Preston Medical Library made plans to continue collecting information on the rate of calls coming into CAPHIS, and what, if any, effect the outreach efforts had on the number of calls. They then plan to create new maps that show the change over time of the rate of calls in Tennessee. 

Socha, Y. M., Oelschlegel, S., Vaughn, C. J., & Earl, M. (2012). Improving an outreach service by analyzing the relationship of health information disparities to socioeconomic indicators using geographic information systems. Journal of the Medical Library Association.


  1. I really enjoyed the graphs used here. They are visually pleasing and easy to understand. I'm surprised by the impact of GIS in libraries, and this article presented the information in a very comprehendible manner.

  2. I agree that the maps are visually pleasing. I also think that it is interesting, while not surprising, that the rate of calls coming into CAPHIS tended to correlate to socioeconomic factors. I hope they are using this information to help those communities get the resources they need.