Community Engagement Core

Specific Aims:

  • Specific Aim 1: Establish an Academic/community partnership to develop, conduct, and evaluate health disparities research.
  • Specific Aim 2: Engage the community to participate in the development, conduct and evaluation of health disparities research.
  • Specific Aim 3: Provide continuing education on the best practices for addressing health disparities to health care providers who work with medically underserved populations.
  • Specific Aim 4: Recruit disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students at the target middle and high schools in Nashville to participate in academic enrichment and support services to better prepare them for careers in health professions.
  • Specific Aim 5: Promote community outreach and education to reduce health disparities.
  • Specific Aim 6: Conduct an annual academic/community health summit on health disparities.

The implementation of this public health informatics strategy will enable academic and community partners to unleash the power of existing secondary health outcomes and environmental data sets using the power of the internet and geographic information systems (GIS) to improve health and decrease disparities.

It is our hope that this web portal will help both community residents and organizations and investigators pursue health disparities research within a social determinants framework by providing them with ready access to data, research tools, other investigators, and communities to assist them. By providing equal access to both data on health outcomes and environmental factors that shape behaviors, exposures, and access to resources, it is our hope that this web portal will help level the playing field between academic and community partners. It also is our hope that by providing easy to use tools to analyze health outcome data within the environmental context it occurs, community partners will be able to participate in the entire research process from generation and testing of hypotheses to the analyses and dissemination of results. Web Portal

The  was developed and implemented under the direction of the Drs. Paul Juarez, Center Director and Wansoo Im to promote joint research, planning, action, evaluation, and public policy efforts by providing access to data on health outcomes and the physical, built, and social environments AND the tools to analyze them.  This web portal was established to conduct analyses of health disparities within the context of the physical, built, and social environments at a sub-county level. This makes the web portal unique to other existing web sites (such as CDC WONDER) by providing users access not only to health outcomes and environmental contextual data, but to interactive mapping tools to analyze and map health outcomes at a sub-county level (including school districts, political districts, neighborhoods, zip codes, and census tracts). The importance of this feature of the web portal is that it allows for the identification of health disparities and environmental characteristics at the local level with the ability to create baseline data and monitor changes over time, and to engage communities in the use of these data to develop, implement, and evaluate outcomes of data-driven, targeted interventions. was established by the Health Disparities Research Center of Excellence at Meharry Medical College as a “proof of concept” web portal to support a public health informatics strategy that promotes collaboration among academic and community partners to improve the health and eliminate health disparities among the residents of Nashville/Davidson County. The web portal targets six areas of health disparities including: cancer, cardio-metabolic disease (cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, and obesity), HIV/AIDS, Maternal & Child Health/Infant Mortality, Intentional and Unintentional Injury, and Substance Abuse/Mental Health.

The web portal is now being expanded to the eleven southeastern states that disproportionately experience health disparities. They include:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia


GIS in Public Health Computer Lab

The Center has established a GIS in Public Health Computer Lab  with 12 work stations. The computer lab is linked to the Altix research servers by fiber optic cabling to access the full computational and storage capacity of the enterprise servers. The computer lab hosts US Census data and over 40 health outcomes data sets which have been prepared for use in both SPSS and SAS.  The Center recently upgraded its educational GIS site license to ESRI’s ArcGIS Server Advanced edition to improve geospatial data management, mapping and spatial analysis capacity. Geo-databases support all the different types of data that can be used by ArcGIS such as attribute tables, geographic features, satellite and aerial imagery, surface modeling data, and survey measurement.

In addition, the GIS server is connected to the internet, a MicroSoft Table and a Smart Board with a high definition overhead projector to allow for easy use and display of data within a 3-D, Google Earth environment. The computer lab also is equipped with teleconference and videoconferencing equipment to promote collaboration and distance learning.

Dr. Im currently has conducted a 14-week course on GIS for 12 HDRCOE faculty and staff using video conferencing. The Center plans to offer future courses on GIS to MSPH and doctoral students, as well as to our community partners.

Past Event:  The Public Health Exposome Project, May 1-2, 2012

Host: The Community Engagement Core, Health Disparities Research Center of Excellence