Mapping Access to Doctors

How far do you travel to get to a doctor? Depending on where you live, the answer to this question can vary greatly. If you reside in Texas, for example, it is possible that you may have to travel several counties over to get to the nearest doctor. In fact, as of 2012, more than 30 counties in Texas had not even one primary care physician! We can get a very clear picture of this issue by looking at data from Health Resources and Services Administration’s Area Health Resources File (AHRF), which we recently updated on PolicyMap with data from the 2013-2014 release.

The map below shows just how limited primary care physicians are in south Texas. The lack of access to doctors, compounded by the high levels of poverty in some of these areas, can make addressing medical issues very challenging. This is not just a Texas problem, though. Communities from Buffalo, New York to Puget Sound, WA to St. James, MN are trying to figure out how to address the shortage of primary care physicians.

Other AHRF data available on PolicyMap include access to dentists, emergency room usage rates, and access to hospital beds and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). If you have any suggestions for other health data you would like to see on PolicyMap, please let us know!

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Where People Are Moving

Economists say that one of the advantages the United States has over Europe is the ease of labor mobility. If you live in an area of high unemployment, you don’t need to get a visa or learn a new language to move to another state.

Interstate migration is an interesting way to gauge the comparative economic health of areas within the United States. PolicyMap has county-to-county migration data from the IRS, which compares tax returns from one year to the next to count the number of people (and their aggregate income) that leave or move to a county in a given year. We just updated this to include the migration from 2010 to 2011.

The first map I looked at was the number of new individuals in a given county in 2011:
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Map of Student Loan Deductions

We’ve already blogged about the new IRS tax data added to PolicyMap, but earlier today, Powerlytics, the source of this new data and a big data provider of financial insights and analytics, officially announced our partnership.

With data from Powerlytics, we’re able to provide our customers with granular consumer financial information, all easily visualized through our award-winning mapping platform and leveraged against our vast library of place-based data.

To see our new data from Powerlytics in action, check out a compelling map about a topic that resonates with millions of Americans: Student loans.

With this map you can visualize student loan interest deductions from 2004-13 to find interesting trends across states, counties, metros and zips.

(Click to open in PolicyMap)


Want to know more about PolicyMap and Powerlytics? Read the official press release from Powerlytics.

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City Council announces new CSI mapping tool

Last night Philadelphia City Council hosted a public stakeholder discussion on its new Community Sustainability Initiative (CSI). The public meeting showcased City Council’s new mapping tool — powered by PolicyMap! — to describe the initiative and invite community feedback and response. The event was hosted at WHYY and went from 6-8pm. It was a lively session with lots of questions and feedback from the audience.

The goal of Philly CSI is to make every neighborhood in Philadelphia a neighborhood of choice, and Council is working with The Reinvestment Fund’s Policy Solutions team to develop a series of indexes that reflect the quality of life such as attractive amenities, quality schools, housing stability, economic prosperity and crime. Last night Policy Solutions President, Ira Goldstein, presented the first iteration of these indexes with a  live demo of the CSI tool.

We are very excited that City Council is using PolicyMap to take their initiative to the public. Look out for a series of community and neighborhood meetings throughout the City on this initiative to check out the tool and give your feedback.


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PolicyMap Reminds You to Eat Your Vegetables this Holiday Season

For some of us – though certainly not you, or me – Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a period of not-so-healthy behavior patterns. The unrepentant gluttony that many Americans will indulge in tomorrow is only compounded by a December full of holiday treats. We might eat too many high-cholesterol foods and/or drink too much alcohol. In many parts of the country, frosty weather makes the thought of exercise outside the home unappealing.

All these behaviors have an undeniable impact on health outcomes. And coming to PolicyMap in early 2015 are a set of indicators from CDC’s 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). This dataset comes from an annual phone survey of over 400,000 Americans and includes detailed estimates for health status (e.g. diabetes, obesity, asthma) and health behaviors (physical activity, immunization, tobacco and alcohol consumption).

Green BeansWhile we may not be on our best behavior this winter, there’s one healthy thing we can all do tomorrow: load up a plate with the recommended amount (around 4.5 servings, depending on your activity level) of vegetables for the day. According to the BRFSS survey, Americans on average eat less than 1.5 servings of fruit and 2 servings of vegetables daily. I hope to handily conquer my personal recommendation with roasted brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes (yes, potatoes count as long as they aren’t fried), green beans, a heaping serving of cranberry relish, and maybe even some grape salad? Whatever you find traditional, know that small modifications to behavior can add up.

Stay tuned for more information about BRFSS data on PolicyMap.

“Grüne Bohnen01″ by Schwäbin – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons.

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USDA Rural Development Multi-Family Properties, Updated At Last

Here at PolicyMap, there always seems to be buzz about some new dataset or update, and this November we’re buzzing with housing data. Following on the heels of the HUD Multifamily and CDBG Eligibility updates, we’re excited to announce that the USDA Rural Development Multi-Family dataset is up-to-date. The reason that we’re really excited is that this update comes after a fairly lengthy wait – nearly seven years, in fact.

The USDA Rural Development Multi-Family dataset contains the locations of multi-family complexes that receive loans and grants that can be used by very low- to moderate-income families to subsidize mortgages and make structural improvements. The dataset contains the addresses of these properties, as well as the name of management company, total number units (i.e., subsidized or otherwise) by number of bedrooms, and complex type (e.g., elderly and disabled, families).

We first added this data in 2007, as one of the earliest datasets on PolicyMap. We sent a Freedom of Information Act request for an update to this data in July 2012. And then we waited. And waited. Until finally, this summer, a heroic USDA employee found our file, and “fast-tracked” it to its completion. Then came the small matter of actually making the map. Continue reading

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PolicyMap for Public Health!

PolicyMap is excited to be exhibiting at the American Public Health Association conference November 15th -19th! Public health officials and practitioners from around the country have shown great interest in learning how PolicyMap can be a useful tool to streamline their data and mapping needs. Whether tracking health indicators over time, analyzing health risks and preparedness, or uploading patient data to better understand your clientele, PolicyMap can be a great asset for health departments and organizations. PolicyMap is also a simple way to pull much of the data needed for your Community Health Needs Assessment.   Come see us at Booth # 1346 and attend our Presentation: “PolicyMap for CHNA and More!” on Monday November 17th at 1:00 PM in the APHA Exhibitor Theatre.


If your health department is looking for an easy and affordable way to access thousands of indicators, upload your own data, and easily share it all throughout your organization, send us an email today!

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HUD Multifamily Properties: We’ve Made Some Improvements

HUD Multifamily Properties is a monster of a dataset. I mean that in a good way. It combines data on multifamily subsidized properties from three different sources, in order to provide a complete picture of the companies maintaining the sites, the people living in them, and the sites’ physical conditions. It’s a one-stop-shop for HUD multifamily data.

It’s also a monster to process. Though the data comes from three sources, it comes in five databases. Two of the databases don’t report data for properties, but for contracts. In some cases, there are multiple contracts per property. All of the Picture of Subsidized Households data, which shows demographic information about the people that live in the properties, is reported at the contract, not property level. So it’s complicated. Continue reading

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Adding website links to your datasets for the Data Loader

If you’ve used the Data Loader, you know how simple it is to upload a spreadsheet of addresses and have it display as points on a map. The process is easy and we only require a few pieces of data (address, city, state, and/or zip code) to geocode an address, which means users can upload any other data for each address as needed. From dates, names, dollars, and titles, we have given users the option to upload almost any data for an address.

One of the more unique fields when uploading data is the “website” field. This field, once uploaded through the Data Loader, will be an active link in the Info Bubble which will open to that website.
Website Link via Data Loader

To get started, you simply need to add an additional column in your spreadsheet and label it “website“. For each address, you would add a website URL like so;
Spreadsheet Layout

      Please note, URLs must start with the “http://” to be active on PolicyMap. The example text in red above will be displayed as text only and not be an active link to the website.

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FY2014 HUD CDBG Eligibility and CPD Appropriations Data on PolicyMap

As always, we are keeping busy at PolicyMap with lots of data updates! We are very excited to let our users know about updates to several datasets from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). First of all, we expanded upon the recent Low and Moderate Income Summary data update so that the FY2014 data now displays not only at the block group level, but at the census tract, city and county boundaries as well. The data at these additional geographies were provided directly by HUD.

Secondly, we are pleased to let our users know that we have updated the Community

These are not CDBGs

These are not CDBGs

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