The last 25 years have seen an explosion in research examining contextual effects on human health. This research will continue to grow with the massive expansion of electronic medical records and health informatics. Yet, spatial, multilevel, and contextual health research requires major investment in specialized personnel, software, and data. Projects must employ GIS specialists, purchase complex and expensive proprietary software, develop custom workflows, and identify and harmonize contextual data from a wide variety of sources. HealthPop will democratize access to contextual health research through an end-to-end, free, transparent, integrated, web-based platform that allows new and experienced researchers and practitioners to geocode health and survey data and both construct and access contextual variables. The new infrastructure will maximize access, reduce costs, maximize transparency, minimize redundant effort, improve the quality of contextual data, and make population health science, especially as regards the social and environmental determinants of health, more easily replicable. The project has four main goals: (1) To provide a free, secure web-based platform that allows users to geocode person-level (health) records; (2) To develop web-based workflows for commonly executed spatial operations such as buffering and cluster detection; (3) To create a diverse and scalable contextual health data repository, including integrated, consistent metadata, that may be linked to geocoded health records; and (4) To provide dissemination, outreach, and training to a broad user community, including students, faculty, researchers, and public health professionals. The project will be executed by team of highly-motivated researchers with exceptional experience and proficiency in large-scale data creation, integration, and dissemination and will leverage cutting-edge technology to geocode and contextualize public health data for innovative and policy- relevant analyses.

Public Health Relevance

Recognizing the critical importance of the contextual determinants of health, this project will create a free publicly- available contextual data infrastructure that will reduce costs, maximize transparency, and minimize redundant effort so as to improve the quality of spatial and contextual health analyses. This project, HealthPop, will democratize contextual and spatial data, substantially lowering the barriers to innovative public health analyses for seasoned researchers and practitioners alike.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Social Sciences and Population Studies A Study Section (SSPA)
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Marcus, Stephen
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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
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United States
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