Friday, July 31, 2020; Silver City, NM:  When mapping public health data, it can be hard to get your bearings especially if you are looking for an elusive location like a home. New Mexico Community Data Collaborative (NMCDC) has discovered a new home for its future evaluation at the Center for Health Innovation (CHI).

The NMCDC is a public data collective with contributions from of over 200 volunteers, organizations, and individual efforts to distill public health data that impacts people’s lives into understandable and relatable maps. To facilitate public access the NMCDC has created a place-based data warehouse online utilizing cloud-based platforms to create interactive mapping and collaborative information sharing since 2011.

Currently, their website includes over 600 maps created from 1,400 data sets that cover over 1,000 health and wellness indicators that effect New Mexican lives, right down to data on their neighborhood and Zip Code.

“Everyone contributes data to the larger effort of bettering public health, “said Tom Sharmen, NM Department of Health Community Epidemiologist and NMCDC founder and data contributor on the network of people contributing their talents and resources to the collaborative.

“Geography is key to bringing to light the inequities facing our state so our residents and government can make informed decisions. ‘Place matters’ we used to say on a national project.”

As New Mexico’s designated Public Health Institute, CHI knew how valuable the continuation of NMCDC was to the state. CHI’s Chief Executive Officer Susan Wilger said, “Such a data commons is an essential tool to understanding context in detail, whether it be at a neighborhood, community or regional level,”

“NMCDC allows communities to plan and implement interventions that will produce desired outcomes in real settings.”

To build capacity for continued growth and to keep NMCDC pertinent to New Mexico residents, CHI has hired Alex Brandt as the first data specialist. Brandt works with a team of contracted data experts and analysists to keep the collective, and its website, running smoothly. 

Brandt became familiar with NMCDC working on a public health project with the Unified Prevention Coalition for Doña Ana County, which mapped the location of alcohol outlets in relation to select crimes in the county. She partnered with community organizations to create an educational video series to teach the public how to access and navigate the resulting maps on NMCDC HERE.

“Being able to dedicate myself to this type of work to make the Collaborative more seamless and efficient by incorporating evidence-based practices for our data-driven projects; it supports CHI’s work as New Mexico’s Public Health Institute,” Brandt said of the importance of her new role.

One of Brandt’s first projects was in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Health to identify and map the state’s health care workforce shortage areas and factors that impact healthcare workforce planning. The maps will help stakeholders and policy-makers discuss how better to support counties to reach their staffing goals and close the state’s health care workforce gaps.

“I’m interested in engaging harder to reach populations that are already underrepresented,” said Brant on her future goals for NMCDC outreach efforts.

“The NMCDC goal isn’t to torture people with numbers, but to present issues so people can have conversations with good data-driven evidence. We want to help people understand the health disparities better for a more equitable future for our residents,” said Sharmen on the ultimate goal of the Collaborative’s mapping efforts.

In addition to offering community members access to a vast collection of web-based maps and data sets, NMCDC offers training and technical assistance to communities allowing them to better navigate the collection, interpret the data and present data to their communities in a format that is engaging and interactive.

NMCDC also partners with community organizations, government agencies and others to develop new maps and data sets around issue-specific areas, such as food, homelessness and early childhood development to name a few. 

To learn more about the NMCDC contact Brandt at (575) 597-0347 or email: abrandt@chi-phi.org or visit: nmcdcmaps.org.  

About the Center for Health Innovation (GENERAL ORGANIZATIONAL INFORMATION)

As New Mexico’s designated Public Health Institute, the Center for Health Innovation (CHI) focuses on bettering community health in underserved and underrepresented populations in the state and beyond. CHI empowers groups and individuals at a local, state and national level to determine the future wellbeing of their communities through the development and implementation of innovative policies, strategies and evidence-based models. Founded in 2015, CHI is headquartered in Silver City, with additional offices located throughout New Mexico. For more information, visit www.swchi.org.