Monday, December 5, 2016

6 Tips for Preparing Your Data for Geocoding

Geocoding is the process of assigning a latitude and a longitude to a specific address.  It is what allows people to place points on maps.  When you enter that address into Google Maps, it is geocoded and marked on the map for you.  At HealthLandscape we have a tool that allows you to quickly add between 1 and 300 points to your map within most of our mapping tools for free.  Our QuickGeocodes tool can be found by clicking the “Tools” button above the map- just check the checkbox to open the tool.  It is important to note that the QuickGeocodes tool is not HIPAA compliant so you should not be using patient street addresses with this tool.

Let’s say you're ready to import your data set into QuickGeocodes. How can you be sure that your data set is accurate and will geocode correctly? Here are six quick tips:

#1: Be sure you have a complete street address

Problem: Geocoding relies on complete street addresses, including house number, street, city, state, and ZIP Code. The address won't geocode if any part of the address is missing.    

Solution: Verify that every street address is complete.

#2: Make sure each part of the address is contained in a separate field (cell)

Problem: The entire address is contained in one field, as in:

1234 Main Street Cincinnati Ohio 45202  

Or parts are in one field as in:

1234 Main Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Solution: Break each part of the address into separate fields:

1234 Main Street

#3: Notice addresses that don't make sense

Problem: Some addresses have a street name only with no number. Or a number with no street name.

Solution: Scan to see if the addresses make sense. You obviously can't verify every address, but look for those that seem unreasonable. Perhaps someone inserted a phone number instead of a house number.

#4: Eliminate address nicknames

Problem: Those who recorded the data used abbreviations for city or street names. For example, a popular abbreviation for "Los Angeles" is "LA." It's unlikely that any geocoding system will match "LA" to "Los Angeles."

Solution: Go through the data and standardize city and street names.

#5: Know what will geocode and what won't

Problem: Sometimes people substitute a post office box for a true mailing address, or they list both a post office box and a mailing address in the same field. Similarly, they may list a building name in place of a true address. For example, in Cincinnati, they might list an address as "Carew Tower" instead of 441 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202.

Solution: Eliminate any address that is not a true street address, such as a post office box or rural route address. It won't geocode anyway. And replace building names with actual addresses.

#6: Establish data entry best practices before you collect the data

Keep this tip in mind for your next data collection effort. The cleaner your data, the better your results. Our "Introduction to HealthLandscape" webinar teaches you how to geocode your own data, as well as access data from our Community HealthView data library. Register today using the link below.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

GIS Day 2016

GIS Day 2016 is on November 16th. Since 1999, there has been annual international effort by those involved in GIS to host and participate in events designed to teach people about all things “geo.” It is an opportunity to open our doors to those wanting to learn about GIS and to show prospective geospatial thinkers what they can do with GIS, and the paths that can lead them to a geocareer.

Many of the scheduled GIS Day events are geared towards students. For example, a GIS Day Celebration Fun Map event will be hosted at an elementary school and will include a GIS education lecture to 5th graders. Another event, hosted by HealthLandscape’s partner, BlueRaster, brings high school students into their offices to share how BlueRaster team members got into GIS and discuss what the students should study in school if they’re interested in GIS.

In the Washington, D.C. metro area, there are nine events taking place this year. These include the ‘Virginia Department of Transportation’s Northern Virginia District GIS Day,’ where they will show participants how GIS is used in Northern Virginia. New Light Technologies, Inc. is hosting an event called ‘What is GIS and how do I use it in my Business or Organization.'  I’m looking forward to an event at the famed Library of Congress where colleagues from the Geography and Maps division will show how students, teachers, and the government utilize GIS. To find information about these events or others near you, visit

HealthLandscape also provide opportunities for users, prospective or current, to gain a better understanding of what geospatial technologies can do for you. Here is a brief snapshot of upcoming learning opportunities:

UDS Mapper Advanced Topics
11:00 AM
Introduction to the UDS Mapper
11:00 AM
Introduction to HealthLandscape
1:00 PM
HealthLandscape Data Visualization Tools
2:00 PM
Exploring Medicare Data with HealthLandscape
1:00 PM
UDS Mapper Advanced Topics
2:00 PM
Introduction to the World Health Mapper
2:00 PM
Population Health Mapper
1:00 PM
NOTE: All times are in Eastern Time Zone.

In last week’s blog, my colleague wrote about her journey to geography and her concern about whether her son was getting the same opportunities she did to become a geospatial thinker.  Go back and visit that blog to find additional resources for children, including our new Map Missions, or better yet, find a GIS Day event near you!

Dave Grolling
GIS Strategist

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Map Mission

I’ve written here before about my serendipitous journey to geography.  I neglected to add the dedicated training my map-loving mother gave me.  Trying to occupy her two children on long road trips, she would open a road map, fold it into a square, find a town, hand us the map and tell us the town name to find thereby gaining for herself many minutes of silence.  I gained an intimate knowledge of the small towns in Texas, an understanding of the connections between them and her love of maps.  

Now, I rely on the GPS on my phone or in my car to help me navigate the strange road layouts and terrible traffic in Northern Virginia.  Still learning those connections between the places here myself, I wonder if my son is building the same spatial thinking skills my mother gave to me especially given my new reliance on GPS and the accessibility of other types of entertainment for him on our long (and short) road trips?  But on the other hand, given the availability of GPS does he even really need to learn how to read maps if a voice will tell him when and in what direction he will need to turn?

Desert Map(with treasure and quicksand) by B, age 6

It turns out that yes, children still need to learn how to read maps.  Spatial thinking is a critical component of their development and growth and can help put them a step ahead in our increasingly global and technological society.  PBS published a nice article about this in January:  Additionally the National Geographic Society has many resources to help teach about geography, data and maps:  And based on what he likes to draw, I think he is clearly on his way to at least appreciating maps.

The team at HealthLandscape also wants to help you find and show the connections that exist in your communities between social determinants of health, health workforce distribution or use of federally funded health centers.  In addition to the many free webinars we host, the user support team is here to answer your questions.  We have added a new chat feature to our sites so that you can reach us faster, as you are using the maps.  For the first few months (or more depending on your response) we will happily provide you with fun, weekly tasks called Map Missions to find certain things on our, and some external, mapping tools.  Quite the opposite of my mother, I hope handing you these fun tasks will generate conversation,  lead you to search for similar connections in your communities, and help you to discover different data sets and mapping tools that you did not know we had.

To request a weekly Map Mission simply visit a HealthLandscape mapping tool and in the upper right-hand corner click where it says, “Can I Help You?” to start chatting with us to make your request.

Jennifer Rankin
Senior Manager for Research and Product Services

Thursday, November 3, 2016

4 Tips to Becoming a HealthLandscape Expert User

1. Attend our webinars and in-person trainings
Attending a webinar or in-person training is one of the best ways to learn how to properly and effectively use the HealthLandscape tools. All of our trainings offer question and answer segments that allow you to ask any questions you might have about the HeathLandscape tools. Here are schedules of our upcoming webinars for HealthLandscape and the UDS Mapper.

If these dates and times do not fit your schedule, contact us and we would be delighted to schedule a personalized training.

2. Discover our tutorials, user guides and other resources
HealthLandscape works hard to provide a variety of training materials to help you navigate the HealthLandscape tools, including user guides and step-by-step ‘How-To’ tutorials. These are provided as resources for you to teach yourself how to use the tools at your own pace.  Training materials for HealthLandscape tools can be accessed when entering a specific tool, on the tool’s welcome screen.* UDS Mapper training materials and resources can be found in the “Tutorials and Resources” tab on the UDS Mapper website.

*User guides are being updated to represent the most current data and features available. Not all HealthLandscape tools have user guides.

3. Contact us
We are here to help! Reach out to us anytime and we will happily answer your questions. We are passionate about Healthlandscape and want to do everything we can to provide the best possible user experience. We currently have three methods available for contact. The first, and newest addition to HealthLandscape, is our live chat feature. Chat with us during business hours by simply selecting the ‘Can we help you?’ button on the top right corner of the website. This feature is available on the home screen and in the mapping tools, so start a chat with us from the beginning of your experience or when you’re in the midst of creating a magnificent map. Another method of contact is to visit the HealthLandscape Support page. Here, you can find contacts based on your specific needs including data mining support, subscription options, and custom application development. Our last method of contact is UDS Mapper specific. Use the ‘Contact Us’ form for any questions you might have pertaining to the UDS Mapper or to set up a webinar training.

4. Become part of the HealthLandscape community
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to see weekly blog updates and HealthLandscape news and whereabouts. HealthLandscape is dedicated to providing resources to make your HealthLandscape user experience a great one. Join our community to keep track of upcoming webinars, conferences that we will be attending, newly added data, and feature updates to our tools.

Visit HealthLandscape today at:

Claire Meehan
User Engagement Specialist

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Exploring Competition and Proximity: A Comparison of Basic Methods

Today, HealthLandscape is releasing the Geospatial Brief, “Exploring Competition and Proximity: A Comparison of Basic Methods.” Brief #4 looks at the importance of including local context when measuring access to health care providers by comparing two common distance measurement methods with actual service area data retrieved from the UDS Mapper.

Configuring and updating the data behind the UDS Mapper is a task that requires many hours spent looking at the tool to make sure that what appears on the screen is logical and accurate. As we go through this process every update cycle, I know that Jennifer will send me her comments based on towns in Texas, Mark will send his showcasing the northern half of the Cincinnati metro, and Michael’s will focus on Kentucky. We each tend to focus on the geographic area that we are most familiar with - either where we’re from, our where we find ourselves, today.

Last spring, I moved from Cincinnati to a small town just west of Seattle, Washington. As I explored the Grantees and Access Points in my new locale during the last UDS Mapper update, I started thinking about accessibility issues and common ways that people measure distance and proximity to places they need to go. For example, Google Maps tells me that my house is 21 miles to my favorite coffee shop in downtown Seattle. However, because we live on the western side of Puget Sound, access to the city isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems - it requires either a ride on the ferry or an 80-mile drive around the Sound - at least an hour of travel, on a good day. I wondered whether the Health Center Program grantees on the Seattle side of the water could draw in patients from my area, and vice versa.

I decided to tackle this issue in a Geospatial Brief - comparing two common ways to measure access to facilities (Euclidean Distance and Network Distance) to the actual service area footprint of Peninsula County Health Services, the Health Center Program grantee in my county. The Brief illustrates the importance of incorporating real local knowledge into research design and methodology and serves as the starting point for additional research into defining areas of competition and proximity.

Jené Grandmont, MA

Thursday, September 29, 2016

HealthLandscape’s Michael Topmiller named an Interdisciplinary Research Leader

As part of one of only 15 three-person teams selected, I’m excited to be named an Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Fellow, a new program led by the University of Minnesota with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I’ll be joined by researchers and community leaders from across the country to collaborate and innovate to solve persistent challenges and advance a Culture of Health—one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.

Along with my colleagues, Jamie-Lee Morris (New Prospect Baptist Church) and Farrah Jacquez (Psychology Department, University of Cincinnati), our project will focus on identifying community assets and improving early childhood health in two neighborhoods in Cincinnati.  Our approach is place-based, and will utilize a variety of methods (including GIS) within a community-based participatory research (CBPR) orientation. While the details of the project are yet to be determined, my role in the project will involve utilizing innovative geospatial “bright spot” methods and participatory mapping to identify community assets. Integrating geospatial and mapping approaches with my team’s expertise in engaging community members and developing community research teams will help ensure that our approach is place-based, community-driven, and culminates in real improvements in early childhood health in our communities.

As our project moves forward I’ll share more details on our progress. The map below shows the location of the 15 amazing teams taking part in the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program.

Participant Map

Michael Topmiller

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

HealthLandscape Attends AAFP Family Medicine Experience (FMX)

This week, the American Academy of Family Physicians, our parent organization, is holding their annual meeting, the FamilyMedicine Experience or FMX, in Orlando, Fla at the Orange County Convention Center.  Last year was the first year of this new type of meeting offering a more interactive and customizable experience, because “as health care becomes about more than patient care, this meeting is expanding to serve you with new topics and techniques.”

HealthLandscape is an innovation of the AAFP which also focuses on that portion of health care that is more than patient care.  HealthLandscape is both a team of people and an online mapping and data platform.  The team is made up of sociologists, informaticians and geographers with wide-ranging interests in that “more than patient care space.”  We perform research and lead projects related to access to care and supportive services; health workforce distribution; population health; hot, cold and bright spotting, and others.  The HealthLandscape team also develops, administers, and markets geospatial analysis software tools and professional services.  

HealthLandscape, the platform, is an interactive, web-based mapping platform that allows health professionals, policy makers, academic researchers, and planners to:
  • Combine, analyze, and display information in ways that make it easy to understand health and the forces that affect it;
  • Improve health outcomes through informed decision-making; and
  • Reduce costs and improve the quality of health and health care.

The HealthLandscape platform brings together various sources of health, socio-economic, and environmental information in a convenient, central location to help answer questions about and improve health and health care.  HealthLandscape can be used to create visual advocacy tools and maps from publicly available, private, and organization-owned datasets to discover community characteristics that can be shared with health professionals, policy makers, and legislators.
We hope to see you at FMX this year to tell, and show, you more about HealthLandscape.  We will be in the Expo Hall at Booth 549 Wednesday, September 21 from 4:30-6:30 PM, Thursday, September 22 from 10 AM - 4 PM and Friday, September 23 from 10 AM - 3 PM.

Not attending FMX this year?  Learn more about our mapping tools at one of our webinars or visit our revamped website at

Jennifer Rankin
Sr. Manager for Research and Product Services

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

People are Attracted to Certain Geographies

Places draw people in.  People search for cool ocean breezes on tropical beaches or the challenge of climbing a mountain or the diversity of life in a rainforest or a large city.  Beyond aesthetics, financial opportunities of a particular landscape can be the main attraction- water source, raw materials for building, or even the kinetic energy of a waterfall.  People have been drawn to the Mississippi River over the years for the many things it has to offer and in Minneapolis they benefit from the only natural waterfall on the entire river.  In the late 19th Century, people came in droves to Minneapolis to take advantage of the St. Anthony Falls to work in industries such as textiles, saw mills and flour mills.

I, myself, am attracted to such geographies as mountains, rainforests, water networks, and rocky outcroppings.  On a recent vacation to Minnesota, where I learned about the St. Anthony Falls, I also visited the Boundary Waters Canoe Area which is a designated wilderness area. I’ve been to various parks and wilderness areas, and couldn’t help but feel an appreciation for the lack of crowds and buildings, and the abundance of parking (for the canoe). I like these kinds of places because they put a smile on my face, they’re calming, beautiful, and they remind me that not everything is about technology

Place matters to me because of opportunity and availability. I visit these places because they provide a means of adventure and immersion. In 2009, I moved to the Washington, D.C. area solely for the lucrative job market.  Seven years later, I’ve come to appreciate that it hasn’t only been the positions that I’ve held that have kept me here. It’s been the environmental diversity that allows me to explore new interests, the plethora of ethnicities that have opened my palate to new flavors, the events calendars in and around D.C. that’s always full, and constantly meeting others who have also uprooted their lives to live in the D.C. area.

HealthLandscape is an application with a variety of valuable tools that help users explore place. For more information on HealthLandscape’s products see our webinars at:

David Grolling
GIS Strategist

Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 UDS Mapper Updates

On August 26th, we rolled out the newest version of the UDS Mapper with updated and new data, and new UDS Mapper Mobile functionality. The UDS Mapper is the premier tool built on the HealthLandscape platform and is designed to visualize areas of potential need for new federally funded health centers. Check out these new features and updates:

Improved User Support:
  • User Support
    • We now have a chat tool in order to help you as you are using the tool; all of the user support tutorials will be updated during September

Updated Data:
  • UDS data
    • Updated to 2015 reporting year data
  • Population Indicators
    • Demographic layers updated
  • Basemaps and Optional Layers
    • County Subdivisions
    • Primary, Dental and Mental Health Care HPSAs
  • Uninsurance by Income Level.
    • Due to changes in data availability the layers for uninsured below 100% FPL and uninsured between 100%-400% FPL could not be updated and have been removed; the other three layers have been updated

Dental Care HPSAs

New Data and Features
  • New Mobile UDS Mapper Functionality
    • Generate a list of all Health Care Facilities within your selected Area
  • New Demographic Data
    • New Age and Social Environment breakdowns in the Main Maps tool
  • New 2 year % Change in Layers for Insurance Categories
  • New Health Care Facilities
  • Locations where there are other than Primary Care National Health Service Corps (NHSC) providers
  • Coming Soon- Veterans Administration health care sites

% Population Aged 18-64

Upcoming Webinars:
Introduction to the UDS Mapper:
(appropriate for all users of the UDS Mapper)
Monday, September 19, 2:00PM - 3:00PM (Eastern Time)   Register

What's New in the UDS Mapper:
Wednesday, September 28, 11:00AM - 12:00PM (Eastern Time)   Register

Claire Meehan
User Engagement Specialist

For more information or to just begin using the UDS Mapper, please visit and plan on attending one of our free webinars!