GeoHealth Innovations’ GIS Application Wins US Obesity Challenge Award

At GeoHealth Innovations, we strive to be on the forefront of broadening the understanding of the relationship between community, health, and place.  We’re creating flexible and dynamic tools, such as Health Demographic Analysis, to deliver quality health and health care analysis.  Health Demographic Analysis is a tool inside the Virginia Atlas of Community Health that enables you to discover areas of potential population risk within a community or region at local level.


Source: Improving Population Health, University of Wisconsin,

Earlier this year, we recognized that Health Demographic Analysis would be a perfect fit for the US Obesity Data Challenge.  The US Obesity Data Challenge was announced during the 2015 Health Datapalooza, a national conference focusing on innovative health data usage and dissemination, by the de Beaumont Foundation, in collaboration with the Health Data Consortium (HDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

This competition looked to find innovative solutions that enable health care professionals and local health officials to help patients and families address the obesity epidemic at both a personal and community level.  We developed an obesity-focused version of Health Demographic Analysis and were awarded third place in this national competition.

Health Demographic Analysis Control Panel

Health Demographic Analysis Control Panel

Participants were required to use at least one open data set from a U.S. government resource in their solution.  This version of Health Demographic Analysis utilized data from the Virginia Atlas of Community Health along with data sets from the USDA Food Access Research Atlas (food deserts), the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (park locations and bike trails), and the USDA National Farmers Market Directory (Virginia farmer’s market locations).

Health Demographic Analysis is very helpful in that you get to define thresholds for at-risk populations.  The analysis allows you to mix and match different social determinants of health – income, education, HPSA designations, and many more – to arrive at your definition.  Highly specified health data and social determinants at the census tract level can be difficult come by, but the layers produced in Health Demographic Analysis help to begin telling the story of where potential at-risk neighborhoods are located.  For example, our obesity Health Demographic Analysis combined the percent of the population aged 17 and younger, the percentage of high-school aged youth considered overweight, the percent of low income households, and areas determined to be in food deserts.  A layer such as this can help focus on areas where these indicators overlap and reveal potential at-risk populations.

Health Demographic Analysis

Health Demographic Analysis

Health Demographic Analysis is supported by hundreds of health indicators, social determinants of health, HRSA designations and facilities, and political boundaries within the Virginia Atlas of Community Health.  Access to this vast array of indicators allows you to overlay Health Demographic Analysis with these data sets to create an even more impactful map.  Again, in the obesity version, we laid over the Health Demographic Analysis layer with farmers markets, parks, and bike trails.  This allowed the map viewer to see whether these potential at risk populations have access to opportunities for exercise and healthy activities.

You can try our award winning tool by visiting the Virginia Atlas of Community Health.