Where you live can determine how safe you are (or feel), where you shop, the kind of food you can buy, and other factors that affect your health. For some people, social factors, like their neighborhood, can disproportionately affect health. “Socioeconomic disadvantage is one of the fundamental factors that result in health disparities,” says Eliseo Pérez-Stable, MD, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. “Having a tool to better understand social factors impacting health disparities is an important step forward to achieving health equity.”
Such a tool is available now developed by Amy Kind, MD, PhD, at the University of Wisconsin. The Neighborhood Atlas is an online platform that allows researchers to visualize socioeconomic data at local levels. Users can download maps indexed with data ranked according to 17 measures, including income, education, employment, and housing quality.
The Atlas is able to merge with other data sources to foster better understanding of how neighborhood disadvantage influences health, Kind says. For instance, researchers and health and social service providers can use the data to understand the risk factors for diseases, study the impact of health policies, or better align resources. Kind adds that the Atlas and the data can be harnessed to advance disparities-focused research, and to improve translational, clinical and community research by showing ways to aid design, recruitment, retention, and outreach.