Broadband, Health Mapping Tool Help Counties Find Solutions

County and local organizations can use the data displayed on the Federal Communication Commission’s Connect2Health map to understand what counties need the most health and broadband assistance and what policies could be created to improve health care and Internet access in specific areas.

“Broadband connectivity is transforming the way we experience health across the country,” said Katie Gorscak, director of communications for the Connect2Heath Task Force at the FCC.

The FCC unveiled its health mapping tool in August to fill analytical gaps, correct misalignments between infrastructure and health intervention, and mine the data to find sustainable business models for rural areas. The map offers a way to visualize the data, intersects broadband and health data, drives policymakers and businesses toward creating solutions, and enables open integration of independent data sets.

“It’s a new way of analyzing, a new way of thinking about the intersection of broadband and health,” said Yahya Shaikh, chief data officer of Greystone Health IT Solutions and senior consultant to the Connect2Health Task Force at the FCC.

The platform has a map dedicated to broadband, a map dedicated to health, and an overview map where individuals can personalize the data sets the most effectively. Users can study broadband speed, access, and adoption, while filtering the data by quality of health and rurality of the residents in specific states, counties, and neighborhoods.

Health technology entrepreneurs can locate the best area for their businesses by finding counties where there is the right percentage of broadband access and health quality. Counties that have low broadband access and low health quality are marked as the counties with the greatest need. The FCC compiled a list of the top 100 counties that need to be priority counties for solutions in this area and a list of the top 100 rural counties that struggle with broadband and health.

“Those we call double burden counties,” said Karen Onyeije, chief of staff of the Connect2Health Task Force at the FCC. “These areas cluster together and those clusters drive solutions.”

Local policymakers can search for their counties on the map to find out what their weaknesses are and team up with nearby counties that need to tackle the same goals. When users create an original map, the platform generates on original URL that policymakers and data analysts can share with one another while they’re collaborating on a common goal.

The task force chose to break down the data by county because it was the best population size that could drive local broadband and health policy, according to Onyeiji.

“We wanted to make sure there would be an apples to apples comparison,” Onyeiji said. “Counties are sort of common building blocks for publishing types of data.”

Users can also download their original data sets into the map or use other data sets that the FCC has available on its servers related to veteran or elderly populations in specific counties. For example, health care companies can enter personally identifiable data without having to worry about violating privacy laws.

The task force is working to add new data about broadband adoption and mobile use to keep the map relevant. However, the task force won’t remove old data in order to provide a means for comparison.

“This platform actually offers a very powerful set of tools for folks in the county level,” Shaikh said.

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