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How Arizona Department of Health Services has used interactive mapping software

to help community planners

ensure spending meets local need

A customer story from InstantAtlas


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The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) was set up to promote and protect the health of Arizona’s children and adults. Its mission is to set the standard for personal and community health through direct care, science, public policy, and leadership. The Department carries out initiatives in diverse areas such as behavioural health, disease prevention and control, health promotion, community public health, environmental health, maternal and child health, emergency preparedness and regulation of childcare and assisted living centres, nursing homes, hospitals and emergency services.


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Community Profiles Dashboard

One important area of focus for the Departments is data monitoring and community profiling.  Will Humble, Director at ADHS says: “If you are a community planner and you want to see where there are higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension – you can compare data from the last four years to see how different areas have changed.  As a community planner, this information can be very useful in how you plan for the future.”


However, collecting health indicator data has been challenging in Arizona for a number of reasons. Firstly, Arizona is not just the sixth largest state in the U.S it was also the second fastest-growing state in the 1990s. In addition, its population is disproportionately spread across the 15 counties of Arizona with Maricopa County, where the state capital Phoenix is situated, accounting for 60 per cent of the population.


The state’s demography has a significant impact on the Department’s role in terms of community profiling. This is because population density plays a large part in how the Department is able to highlight significant trends. This presents a significant challenge for any organisation that needs to show detailed analysis at anything below county level.


The initial trigger to resolve this issue was a 1988 law that directed the Department to use the data in the cancer registry to identify areas and populations that require further investigation. The state-collected cancer data was not complete enough to looks at rates on a relatively small geographic scale, limiting analysis to the county level only.


Given the disparity in population numbers between the counties of Arizona, the initial analysis was not sufficiently detailed.  So the Department created 126 Community Health Analysis Areas (CHAAs). A CHAA is built from US 2000 Census Block Groups and typically contains approximately 21,500 residents. These were then unified with existing Primary Care Areas (PCAs) to enable the Department to present data at a geographic scale smaller than the county level.


The next step was to find a way to present the cancer data in a visually meaningful way. The team hoped that this would put an end to the ad hoc requests for custom analysis it had been receiving. It would also mean data could be more easily shared with non-GIS professionals such as researchers and the public. A decision was made to use InstantAtlas  Desktop and InstantAtlas Online Dashboard Builder to create a Community Profiles Dashboard and generate dynamic reports.



“What makes the new Community Profiles Dashboard revolutionary is the way you can access, sort, and analyse the information.

The Community Profiles

Dashboard has now been

developed beyond the cancer

data and now includes four

years’ worth of data for a wide

range of public health indicators.

These are grouped into four

areas: mortality, infant mortality,

natality and demographics.

The dashboard allows users to

drill down to individual PCAs

and select indicators which

are then given a red, green or

amber rating according to whether the

chosen indicator is higher than, lower than or the Arizona average.


Will Humble says: “What makes the new Community Profiles Dashboard revolutionary is the way you can access, sort, and analyse the information. You can zero in on key indicators related to your mission or concerns and drill down to the community level to determine where to focus your resources. What’s more the site is user friendly and will work on a desktop or mobile device, like an iPad.”


“Knowing this information could help you make a more informed decision about where the new community park will be built, or where to locate a new bike and walking path. To improve the overall health of our communities, access to these kinds of services is vital.”


Other partner organisations have started to take notice. Well Woman is one organisation which intends to use the information to help it make grant applications for work with particular cancers. Other department programmes have also expressed an interest in the way the data is presented with a view to adopting the same approach. Will Humble believes the momentum is gathering behind the Community Profiles Dashboard and says there are more developments on their way.



Communities Profiles Dashboard

Will Humble

Director, ADHS

The Arizona Communities Profiles Dashboard is built using the InstantAtlas Area Profile. The Area Profile includes a health profiles configuration which enables at-a-glance analysis across a range of indicators for a selected map feature. Indicators are arranged vertically in a scrollable list. The health profile is highly configurable and can be tailored to display data using text, symbols and coloured shaded bars. It makes the comparison of profiles for different areas quick and easy.


Part 1 of 4:
Basic Overview


Part 3 of 4:
Flu &
Pneumonia Data

Communities Profiles Dashboard - Video Tutorials

Narrated by Wes Kortuem, GIS Coordinator for the
Arizona Department of Health Services


Part 2 of 4:
Suicide Data


Part 4 of 4:
Suicide Data

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