Data Visualizations for Health

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is an excellent resource for those interested in the connections between health and place globally. Particularly useful is its section on data visualization that provides numerous examples. The US Health Map, while presenting only a few variables, does this in a very user-friendly format.

Global Burden of Disease


Health in the Green Economy

One of the reports in the series

A new WHO briefing paper series on Health in the Green Economy proposes links between climate change mitigation and improved health. There are a number of related publications dealing with housing and transportation. For example, the housing report highlights the health consequences for non-communicable diseases of extreme heat and cold, dampness, and ventilation problems that may be associated with climate change. It also points out the potential rise of vector-borne diseases. Indoor air quality is a key concern as houses become more air tight.

This is a useful set of summary reports.

Noise Mapping England

Noise Mapping England is a terrific online resource providing highly localized noise mapping for a number of English cities. Noise sources include raid, rail, industry, and air and users can create separate maps for day and night.

For more information about health and noise see the noise section of the Design for Health web site.

Noise map of part of Manchester. For the legend navigate to the site.

Plan Evaluations from the American Planning Association

The American Planning Association recently released a report, Healthy Planning, evaluating 22 comprehensive and sustainability plans in terms of health issues. Funded by the CDC this report looks at 22 plan documents. As the APA’s web site web site states: “The evaluation assessed the extent to which these plans addressed public health through six broad health-related planning topics:

  • Active Living
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Environmental Exposures
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Health and Human Services
  • Social Cohesion and Mental Health”

Its an interesting report downloadable at Anna Ricklin, the current manager of APA’s Planning and Community Health Research Center led the team creating the report. The plans were selected from a 2012 survey that had identified 890 plans using mentioning public health and 45 additional plans identified by the CDC. Plans were selected because they covered a wide range of health topics and also geographical diversity (urban, rural, county, city, etc). The report doesn’t present evaluations of individual plans but examines how many of the plans covered particular topics and issues. It does, however, identify lists of top plan e.g. for active living  top jurisdictions included Baltimore County, Washington, DC, and Fort Worth and for food and nutrition the top places where Alachua County (FL), the Oneida Nation, and Baltimore County.  A next phase of the project will look in greater depth at some specific case studies.


A number of my Cornell students worked on the report with APA (acknowledged on page 4).

Global Health Data from the WHO

For those interested in the broad situation of health and place globally, the World Health Organization’s Global Health Observatory is a useful resource. The observatory includes data repository, reports, and a useful map gallery. Maps, using data at the country scale, cover a wide range of topics from average cholesterol and avian influenza to health expenditure. These are clear maps at a similar scale and a terrific resource.

WHO Maps

Mapping Rural Health: The USDA Economic Research Service’s Online Maps

Food AtlasThe USDA Economic Research Service’s Food Environment Atlas and Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America provide a wealth of data on health issues and determinants (causes). Boasting an easy-to use interface the Food Environment Atlas deals with a very wide range of issues including grocery store access, restaurant expenditures, food assistance, food insecurity, food prices, local foods, health and physical activity information (e.g. obesity, fitness facilities), and socioeconomic characteristics. There is online documentation and data can be downloaded in Excel format.

The Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America adds even more information about people, jobs, the character of agricultural production, and levels of urbanization. Again documentation is available and data can be downloaded.

American Planning Association’s Planning and Community Health Research Center

APA’s Planning and Community Health Research Center

For those interested in how to connect health and urban planning, the APAs Planning and Community Health Research Center is a good place to start. Resources include links to a number of health-related interest groups, links to educational programs, and a useful listing of APA’s health-related publications. A companion resource is the Planning and University Research Registry (PURR) where researchers can list projects both in progress and completed. A number are related to health and planning.

OTREC Healthy Communities Work

The Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium is a national-level federally-funded University Transportation Center. One of their three research themes is healthy communities. To find out about their different projects go to the search page, at, type in “health” and click on “filter projects. Projects range from a focus on air quality to pedestrian infrastructure and homelessness.

DC Bike Rental
Bicycle Rental. Photo: Ann Forsyth.


Colorado Active Transportation Mile Markers

People trying to plan to increase active transportation face problems with data. It isn’t clear how much active transportation is occurring so it is difficult to tell if it is increasing or decreasing. Recently I was involved with Kevin Krizek and Charlier Associates in creating a set of recommendations for measuring walking and cycling in Colorado. The report recommends eight indicators or “A

The report and a link to a webinar on the project are available at LiveWell Colorado(scroll to the bottom). You can reach the report directly at Recommendations for Measuring Active Transportation.

Illustration from the webinar