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Get the picture? South Carolina does: State invests in mapping of health data
When Nela Gibbons, a senior policy analyst with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, wanted to show officials in Aiken County how to boost local welfare-to-work efforts, she showed them a map of the county’s bus routes. On the same map, she illustrated the location of the county’s employable welfare clients and childcare facilities.
With a speed not generally associated with governmental deliberations, officials in this upland county of about 132,000 people decided to move the bus routes closer to the people most likely to need the service.
"They could see the bus line did not go where any of our clients were. It made it a very easy decision," says Ms. Gibbons.
Research into the placement of bus lines is only a modest example of South Carolina’s growing analytic capability. The state has built huge data warehouses for hospital inpatient, outpatient, and emergency department data, as well as home health information. Physician data is next on the list. (For more information on how states are building data warehouses, see related stories, pp. 4 - 6.)
The heart of South Carolina’s data integration efforts is a $1 million, three-year project to enhance the U.S. Census TIGER map files that describe the state. As of 1997, the second year of the project, addressing and geocoding had been completed in counties serving about 58% of the state’s 3.7 million people. Most of the addressing information comes from concurrent efforts to expand E-911 service throughout South Carolina. All but two South Carolina’s 46 counties have or are in the process of implementing E-911.
The database and mapping linkages have been used in South Carolina to explore everything from violent crime patterns to the shopping habits of African-American heart patients. A recent initiative in Florence linked the vast array of medical and social services provided to Healthy Start clients and plotted the location of birth outcomes. Widely varying rates of so-called "problem babies" in adjacent neighborhoods prompted further investigation. Because state officials were able to so clearly define the problem and craft their questions, community residents readily identified what set apart the neighborhoods that produced good birth outcomes.
Contact Ms. Gibbons at (803) 898-3319 and Mr. Bailey at (803) 734-3818. Detailed information on the project can be found at www.orss.state.sc.us/, the home page of the Office of Research and Statistics within the South Carolina Budget and Control Board.