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Fulcrum Community Partner Highlight: Community Health Mapping

July 29, 2019

Health disparities have become common conversation amongst medical professionals, politicians, and communities at large. It’s a known fact that the poorer you are, the more affected you are by the worst health indicators. Understanding this fact makes the fix sound simple: perhaps move to a new neighborhood or increase your income — that should fix these issues. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

There are many reasons for the spread of disease or environmental pollution that continues to plague our planet. Those reasons are found in things like climate, genetics, weather conditions, pollution, and other environmental factors. While all of those factors play a huge part in health disparities, the most profound reasons why certain disparities persist have little to do with any of those known factors. So what could be more pressing than that list? Data.

Think about it: When you visit the doctor’s office, the first thing most doctors do is run a myriad of tests to locate the source of your bodily issues. Tests usually reveal the issues that are present at that time, but it won’t tell them the environmental or genetic history that contributed to your conditions which could have prevented the illness or that prevent others from being exposed. The good news is technology is beginning to change that dynamic.

We now have gadgets that track our heart rate, blood pressure and other important vitals, which is great. That data is extremely important information, but still remains a small part of the data we need to ensure the overall health of the human race. That need for data and more education has sprung a new movement led by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and facilitated by Kurt Menke of Birds Eye View. Together they are helping communities collect critical health data and heal themselves from many health concerns that are common to their neighborhoods.

King Tide water sampling
Shelby Servais collects a sample of water that has risen through storm drains during King Tide flooding. (Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald)

King Tide water sampling
Beverly Ward and John Heimburg collect samples of flood water in Miami’s Upper East during King Tide flooding. (Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald)

Kurt is a GIS specialist who has shared his knowledge of geography and technology in every corner of the world. To date, he has instructed over 800 communities and organizations how to take their health in their own hands. Kurt is one of many “Fulcruminators” (superheroes who are saving the world using the Fulcrum platform). These communities collect data in real time and report their findings to local authorities, which increases the opportunities to resolve environmental challenges that lead to widespread disease and other health issues that affect those living in the most impoverished areas of the world.

In North Miami, Community Health Maps partnered with Florida International University and local residents living in the Shorecrest community to collect King Tide data during one of many tidal flooding episodes that frequently occur in that area. The residents in that area were equipped with Fulcrum and water-testing kits to test the safety of the flood waters. The tests revealed high levels of bacteria in those areas, which resulted in authorities taking different safety measures to support those residents. Residents in Shorecrest are now equipped with data tools and a process to help themselves and their neighbors when another King Tide arrives.

King Tides flood Shorecrest neighborhood

Kurt recently convened 12 pacific island public health professionals in Honolulu, HI to participate in a Community Health Maps training specifically designed to demonstrate how to collect and work with geographic data related to vector-borne diseases (diseases that are transmitted to humans via other animals or insects such as mosquitoes). The workshop was well attended with participation from The American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau.

The First Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance Workshop

Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance workshop
Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance Workshop

The two-day workshops were aimed specifically at tackling the spread of diseases like Dengue Fever and the West Nile and Zika viruses. The training was organized by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) in collaboration with the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine and was taught in conjunction with ASTHO’s Insular Area Climate and Health Summit.

After an introduction to the Community Health Maps project – its origins, workflow and examples of past projects – participants learned to create a data collection form and use their smartphones to map features (trees, signs, benches etc.) around the conference site using Fulcrum. Yet another community equipped and empowered to make change through their own hands.

Pacific Islanders Mapping with Fulcrum
Pacific Islanders map with Fulcrum.

We can’t determine if the Community Health Mapping efforts will resolve every health disparity we face, but we can empower people to collect critical information quickly, which supports faster recoveries and results in more lives saved. That is what the Fulcrum data collection platform does for these communities.

Fulcrum Community is a no-cost, short-term crowdsourced data collection solution for qualified humanitarian or volunteer disaster preparedness and recovery efforts. Click here to learn more or request an account. If you are a part of a community interested in mapping your area to support increased wellness, click here to contact Community Health Mapping.