The Use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to Assess Teen Births in the Community: One City Experience

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Ainat Koren, RN, PhD
Department of Nursing, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Lowell, MA
Dorothy Brewin, CNM, PhD
Nursing, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Lowell, MA

Learning Objective 1: 1. The learner will be able to state the benefits of GIS as a community health assessment tool

Learning Objective 2: 2. The learner will be able to State the benefits if the use of GIS specific to the prevention of teen births.

Purpose: The Geographic information System (GIS) is used to analyze, and visualize spatial data and their attributes. The power of GIS is its ability to identify relationships among features on different map layers based on where they are located in relationship to one another. GIS is an analytical method for public health. Its applications are beneficial for effective health status assessment, health planning, program evaluation, and surveillance. The purpose of this research is to apply the GIS to enhance our understanding of teen pregnancy related to services and other demographic variables in a western Massachusetts city in the US.

Methods: For the mapping purposes, aggregate census block group level city data of birth rate/counts for females ages 15-19 was obtained from vital records.  In addition, block group level population data for the city was downloaded from U.S Census Bureau, Census 2010. This population data included race/ethnicity, income, poverty status, and education. Data about health and social services locations in the city was collected and coded for teen empowerment, reproductive health clinics including pregnancy prevention services and service support for young parents. The data was, organized, and managed in ArcCatalog –data management tool in ArcGIS 9.2 for use in geocoding and map creation in ArcMap. 

Results: The mapping identified geographic disparities in services. Services are located in the center of the city leaving many areas without access.  Teen birth rate was visually associated in areas with high poverty rate, low education and high minority concentration.

Conclusion: GIS mapping is an important tool to assess teen births. The findings identify gaps and opportunities and inform recommendations such as service planning, identification of high-risk population and their geographic location.