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Nutrition and GIS: Mapping McDonald's, And Our Waistlines

Nutrition and GIS: Mapping McDonald's, And Our Waistlines

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

An intriguing New York Times blog post today highlights a geo-coded map created by blogger Stephen Worley showing that the farthest away any American in the contiguous 48 states can get from a McDonalds is a mere 107 miles - a mere two-hour drive from a 540-calorie Big Mac.

While an astute commenter points out that the map appears to closely reflect population density in the United States, the map also illuminates - literally - the incredible availability of junk food in this country, with the attendant worries about obesity and diabetes.

Wondering if there was a similar map showing the locations of farmers' markets or even supermarkets selling fresh fruit and vegetables, I Googled "GIS mapping and nutrition," which led me to a really interesting resource: The Network for a Healthy California's nutrition and health data mapping application.

From the site:

The application contains a rich set of nutrition and other health related data, including:

* Nutrition and school health programs

* WIC grocery stores and other local nutrition resources

* Demographics (race and spoken language) of general and at-risk populations

* Various California Department of Public Health regions

* Political (senate and assembly) districts

It also maps farmers markets and, yes, fast food outlets. This is not an easy resource for the uninitiated to use and will take some training, or at least a good long read through the site's tutorial. In an upcoming post, I'll have someone from the California Department of Public Health walk us through how to mine this resource for stories about access to affordable, healthy food in your community.

In the meantime, check out ReportingonHealth's guide to GIS mapping for health stories and essay on covering diabetes and obesity. For some good nutritional intake and demographic data that's searchable by state, check out the federal government's Community Nutrition Mapping Project. Finally, here's a great list of resources about access to healthy food.

Have you used GIS mapping for health or nutrition-related stories? Can you point us to good examples of same? Share your thoughts in the comments below. You need to be a registered member of Center for Health Journalism Digital to leave a comment, so if you haven't joined yet, click here.It's easy, quick and free.

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Definately its a great article

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