Geographic information system (GIS) technology offers local health departments a planning tool to match community needs with public health services and programs.
These researchers studied four large health departments, two in California and two in Florida, interviewing key informants from all levels of the organization. They identified five critical factors that enable health departments to use GIS methods to inform service planning:
- Priority setting—some type of formalized strategic planning activity including traditional health assessments, community-driven planning processes and, in some cases, political mandates.
- Planning with a geographic focus—identify a purpose for mapping and put program planning and service provision questions into a geographic context.
- Access to geo-enabled data—availability of population health data and health department service and program data.
- Resources and technical capacity—resources needed include specialized but widely available GIS software, data management or statistical software, and staff proficient in using the software.
- Responsive organizational structure—capacity to use information generated through GIS to make changes to services and programs then reevaluate using strategic planning.
GIS methodologies provide local health departments with a way to inform decision-making and better align their offerings with community needs and health outcomes.