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Mapping Good Health: Using GIS Approaches to Support Health and Health Care

Through a grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, the Durham Diabetes Coalition seeks to develop methods and interventions to improve primary care of type II diabetes in Durham County, North Carolina. CEHI is collaborating with the Duke University Health System, the Durham County Health Department and Lincoln Community Health Center to integrate GIS and spatial methods into existing health systems operations. Using GIS for spatial data management and analysis at an enterprise level can enable different types of health care providers to better understand their patient populations and tailor health care delivery to improve outcomes and efficiency. This entails the establishment of spatially enabled data architectures for health care organizations. Spatial data architecture facilitates the performance of small area analyses using GIS. Small area analysis can enable providers to better understand factors that affect the health status of their patient populations.

CEHI has geocoded all Durham County residents in the Decision Support Repository (DSR), Duke’s enterprise patient data warehouse.  This rich dataset has been used to identify patients at Duke that have been diagnosed or should be diagnosed with diabetes, and to target areas of the county with high diabetes incident rates. Interventions will be conducted in three pilot areas and eventually the entire county, with the overall goals of diabetes education and the reduction of the burden of diabetes. We will develop a risk algorithm based on clinical and socioeconomic data to identify high risk patients that can be targeted for intervention.  We will also build a spatially enabled platform to allow providers and patients to view specific data about the area in which the patient lives and develop individualized diabetes management plans based on the resources and community dynamic in the patient’s neighborhood.

The broader goal of generating a standard methodology for building spatially enabled health systems nationwide is continued with funding from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The Southeastern Diabetes Initiative will continue the work that is being done on diabetes in Durham County in three other US counties: Cabarrus County, North Carolina; Mingo County, West Virginia; and Quitman County, Mississippi. The goals of this project are similar to the Durham Diabetes Coalition: to improve healthcare delivery for individual and population level diabetes management, to improve outcomes and quality of life for diagnosed and undiagnosed adults with diabetes, and to reduce overall healthcare costs for populations with diabetes by reducing hospital and ED admissions and major procedures such as dialysis, amputations, and cardiac procedures. CEHI is working with the counties involved in this project to create the same spatially enabled systems that are in place in Durham County.

Funding Organization


  • Philip Harewood
  • CEO, Lincoln Community Health Center


  • Howard Shang
  • Director, Information Technology, Duke Health Technology Solutions

Primary Staff Contact