Institute for Families in Society

What is a Geospatial Environmental Scan©?

The Geospatial Environmental Scan© (GeoEScan©) allows the user to geographically explore health characteristics and resources in South Carolina. It provides critical information that supports planning, resource allocation, partnership development, and other decision-making processes through interactive map layers and tabled data.
Each new GeoEScan© produced by IFS has a foundation of proven effectiveness, improves on previous work, and provides new innovation and information with each new partnership. The production of any GeoEScan© at IFS offers a holistic, collaborative approach through its interdisciplinary project team.

What Does It Offer?

We had years of established expertise in creating maps in various formats that showed geographic disparities in health across South Carolina. Notably, we continued to see areas of the state with socioeconomic deprivation having higher rates of poor health, along with pockets of opportunity inside resource-rich counties. The ability to integrate information from multiple sources and put it into the hands of decision makers, in a responsive and easy to use format, was paramount.

Creation of the GeoEScan© was the result of us considering how best to put interactive maps, connected to data tables, into the hands of non-GIS users.

Ana Lòpez-De Fede, PhD, Associate Director, Institute for Families in Society

We leveraged the capability of Adobe Acrobat to create mapping layers that users could turn off and on, creating custom data views that could be used to make assessments of local population health needs and health service capacity that are essential to the fair and effective allocation of limited state health care resources.

The GeoEScan© specifically allows users to:

  • identify areas of high socioeconomic disadvantage;
  • examine geographic patterns of disease burden;
  • evaluate access to local health care facilities;
  • identify potential health and service gaps; and
  • target interventions in high need areas at differing levels of geography.

Web-based GeoEScan©

The latest innovation in the GeoEScan© is the use of a web platform to deliver the data and maps interactively without requiring any user downloads. The first release of the web-based product was for the Children’s Health and Resource Geographic Exploration for Data-Driven Decisions (CHARGED3) project.

The web-based platform was built to be a dynamic, interactive research tool from the ground up, using the following process:

  • Provider data was retrieved, stored and processed in Microsoft SQL,
  • Automated geoprocessing was performed with Python to prep facility data,
  • Spatial analysis and mapping were handled in ArcGIS Pro,
  • Tabular data collection and processing was done in Microsoft Excel,
  • Graphic design was handled with the Adobe Creative Suite; and

The resulting integrated mapping application was built in InstantAtlas

Translating Data Into Action

Any population’s needs exist across multiple dimensions including access to care, continuity of care, family support resources, and program availability. This tool integrates the data the user needs to look at these issues from a new perspective.

This interactive tool and platform allows diverse stakeholder and user groups to engage with the content, prompt context-relevant questions and discussions, and encourage more widespread utilization of GIS tools to support collaborative, data-driven decision-making.

The goal of every GeoEScan© is to encourage users to explore the data so as to identify and ask new questions that can, in turn, ultimately drive practice, policy, and programmatic changes.