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Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

University of Wisconsin develops Neighborhood Atlas research tool

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A new online tool called the Neighborhood Atlas has been launched to help researchers to view socioeconomic data on communities.

The platform, developed at the University of Wisconsin, allows researchers to rank and map neighborhoods according to income, education, employment, housing quality and other socioeconomic factors.

This information may provide insight into how these factors impact overall health because a person’s neighborhood can influence their health in a variety of ways. For example, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are disproportionately more common among racial and ethnic minorities as well as the socioeconomically disadvantaged. Consequently, Neighborhood Atlas could be used to inform health resources policy and social interventions.

The Neighborhood Atlas project is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). Both of these organizations are part of the National Institutes of Health.

“Socioeconomic disadvantage is one of the fundamental factors that result in health disparities, and understanding those factors is what will lead to development of interventions to reduce disparities,” Eliseo Pérez-Stable, director of NIMHD, said. “Having a tool to better understand social factors impacting health disparities is an important step forward to achieving health equity.”

The Neighborhood Atlas was developed by Amy Kind from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. It looks at 17 measures of education, housing quality, and poverty.

“Living in a disadvantaged neighborhood is associated with many health-related factors including limited access to nutritious food, more safety concerns and greater risk of toxic exposures, such as pollution,” Kind said. “Individuals who live in such neighborhoods are more apt to develop certain diseases and to die earlier from those diseases.”

The Neighborhood Atlas is already being used by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to inform strategies for the Everyone with Diabetes Counts program.

“Effectively measuring socioeconomic factors is a key step for conducting rigorous health disparities research related to aging,” Carl Hill, who serves as the director of the NIA Office of Special Populations, said. “The Neighborhood Atlas enables the application of existing social data to understand the risk factors for many diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, and provides the field with innovative disease modifiers to study.”