State Health Data and ArcGIS Online

This tutorial covers the downloading of state health data for visualization in ArcGIS Online.

All US states have departments of public health (under a variety of names) that maintain vital records and illness data as a part of their mission to promote good health in their state. All of those departments make some of that data available for download through their websites.

However, as of this writing, publicly-available geospatial data is often made available in formats (like PDF or CSV files) that require additional (often tedious) processing to import into GIS software for analysis and visualization.

Although the exact formats (and associated processing specifics) will differ between states, agencies within departments, and health conditions, the examples below show the general basics on processing county-level data from different formats .

Feature Services

If you are lucky, the state may make the health data you need available through a geospatial data portal like ArcGIS Hub. In such cases, you can get the data through an API URL that allows ArcGIS Online to connect directly to a service provided by the server with no additional processing needed on your part.

You may be able to find such portals by Googling "<name_of_state> GIS data." This example uses asthma emergency room visits by county in California in 2012.

  1. Find the APIs link and copy the GeoService
  2. Create a new Map in ArcGIS Online
  3. Add -> Add Layer from Web with An ArcGIS Server Web Service and use the GeoService URL copied from the data portal
  4. Remove query? and everything after it from the URL
  5. Add Layer. You may need to click the button twice
  6. Style the layer based on the attribute you wish to display using an appropriate color ramp
  7. Save the map under a meaningful name and Share the map to get a link
Creating a Map From a Service

Shapefile

Geospatial data portals also sometimes make data available as Shapefiles, which are an old format from the 1990s usually distributed as a .zip file. These files are also sometimes made available through links to static files.

You may be able to find such portals by Googling "<name_of_state> health shapefiles" This example again uses asthma emergency room visits by county in California in 2012.

  1. Download the shapefile to your hard drive
  2. Create a new Map in ArcGIS Online
  3. Add -> Add Layer from File, Browse to select the .zip shapefile, and Import Layer
  4. Style the layer based on the attribute you wish to display using an appropriate color ramp
  5. Save the map under a meaningful name and Share the map to get a link
Creating a Map From a Shapefile

Data Portal CSV Export

Health data is often made available through data portals that allow selection of specific health conditions, time periods, and demographic groups. This data can usually be exported as comma-separated-variable (.csv) files that can then be imported into ArcGIS Online after some additional processing.

This example uses chlamydia rates by county from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

  1. Select the appropriate health condition, time period, and demographic groups in the data portal
  2. Download the data as a .csv file. The link to do this may have a name like Export, Table, or, in this case, Download
  3. You may also have multiple download options. CSV is usually the best choice, although in this case, that option is titled Crosstab
  4. Open the .csv file in a spreadsheet program
  5. Remove extraneous rows and columns
  6. If the data is panel data covering multiple years, remove all years except the one you want to display
  7. Remove text from data column. Having anything except numbers or blanks in the attribute column will cause ArcGIS Online to treat the attribute as text and you will be unable to visualize it as numeric data
  8. Add a State column. Different states often have counties with the same names, so this column indicates to ArcGIS Online which set of county names to use when geocoding locations
  9. Download as comma-separated values to your hard drive
  10. Create a new Map in ArcGIS Online
  11. Add -> Add Layer from File, Browse to select the .csv file, and Import Layer
  12. When asked about Location columns, make sure the state column is listed as State and county column is listed as County
  13. Style the layer based on the attribute you wish to display using an appropriate color ramp
  14. Save the map under a meaningful name and Share the map to get a link
Creating a Map From a CSV file

PDF

The least desirable option is when geospatial data is only available as tables in PDF reports designed for printing. In some cases you may be able to copy and paste the text from the report into a spreadsheet, but often you will need to manually type the data into a spreadsheet, which is tedious, time consuming, and error-prone, but will often be your only option.

Make sure to spell the location names correctly. If using counties or cities, also make sure to add a State column so ArcGIS Online knows how to geocode the specific cities in that state.

Once you have created the spreadsheet, export it to a .csv file and the procedures are the same as those above with downloaded CSV files.

The following example uses chlamydia rates published in the Maryland Department of Health's 2018 Maryland STI Annual Report.

  1. Find the table in the PDF file
  2. Create a new spreadsheet in an spreadsheet program or Google Sheets
  3. Add headers to indicate what the columns contain
  4. Type in the names of the locations and the data
  5. If mapping counties or cities, add a State column. Different states often have counties with the same names, so this column indicates to ArcGIS Online which set of county names to use when geocoding locations
  6. Download as comma-separated values to your hard drive
  7. Create a new Map in ArcGIS Online
  8. Add -> Add Layer from File, Browse to select the .csv file, and Import Layer
  9. When asked about Location columns, make sure the state column is listed as State and county column is listed as County
  10. Style the layer based on the attribute you wish to display using an appropriate color ramp
  11. Save the map under a meaningful name and Share the map to get a link
Creating a Map From a CSV file

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