The Healthy Regions & Policies Lab at UIUC’s Department of Geography & GIScience was recently awarded $1.4 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation over the next two years to work on a new project to advance health equity with improved social determinant of health (SDOH) data discovery and community practice tools for health researchers, policymakers, and community organizations.
This work follows three years of pioneering US Covid Atlas and Atlas Stories projects, which sought to integrate historical and current COVID-19 data and insights with human experiences.
This project will work to demystify application design thinking crucial to developing web applications centered on neighborhood health. Our main goal will be to develop, fortify, and advance an open ecosystem for communities that makes developing web applications with SDOH data for health equity more accessible, enjoyable, and empowering.
There are multiple threads to the project. First, we’ll develop a flexible community toolkit to introduce and support the complex process of planning a web application with geospatial data about community health.
Community members will learn how to define and better understand the potential uses of their application ideas, specify needs, design solutions, and then evaluate. Free and/or open-source software will be presented as effective options to application development for building prototypes or final versions, empowering community members to build capacity locally and remain cost-effective.
At the same time, we’ll build out a new map-based search platform for SDOH data discovery that will curate and integrate validated geospatial data relevant to public health at multiple scales. We’re excited to link cutting edge work on map-based search from the GeoBlacklight community, and partner with a national network of librarians, user experience researchers & designers, search & metadata experts, and computer scientists.
We will also host a cohort of Community & Tech Fellows to provide input, test out modules, implement innovative approaches, and develop new applications, culminating in a final meeting to share findings and experiences. Design sprints, following inspiration from previous collaborations at the University of Chicago, will facilitate additional opportunities to connect stakeholders with designers, developers, and analysts.
The Lab is honored and thrilled to be chosen to lead in this space. We will share new staff position openings in the next few weeks and months, with the fellowship call to follow next year. Keep updated with our lab for more news as we continue to expand our vision, and work to improve the Culture of Health!