CDC Tool Provides 'Whole New View' of Health of Communities

CDC Tool Provides 'Whole New View' of Health of Communities
Online interactive map called 'Places' compares 27 health factors including heart disease, diabetes in communities across the country.

Where you live can affect your health. And now there's a new way to measure the health of your community: a CDC data tool called Places. It's an online, hyper-local look at health factors across the country. 

"This gives you a whole new view of the data in Places," said Karen Hacker, director at the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion. 

The online interactive map tracks 27 chronic disease factors, like heart disease, diabetes and health insurance. Type in your ZIP code and you can compare the prevalence of diseases in your location to other neighborhoods or the country as a whole. 

"The variation is just sometimes so extreme, you know, you can have literally communities that are adjacent to one another where the rates of heart disease range for something like 1.5% to 36%. And we're talking in some cases blocks away from each other," said Hacker.

While Places doesn't track the coronavirus, it can help estimate which neighborhoods have high risk factors for COVID-19, like heart disease and diabetes — which could help with vaccine distribution.   

"You could find pockets within cities where you might have really high prevalence of underlying conditions. So public health practitioners could use these data in that way to target," said George Hobor, senior program officer at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They collaborated with the CDC for the Places project.  

While Places looks at local health challenges and risk behaviors, it doesn't currently include race and ethnicity data sets. 

"It's not the only data source you're probably going to need," said Hacker. "You may use census data, for example, which will give you information on your race and ethnicity and age breakdowns."

 Places is another tool in the arsenal to help address health disparities, and it's available now.  

"Hopefully it will also mean that health department directors and community leaders will be able to use resources to start to change the way those disparities look and get us towards health equity," said Hacker.