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How interactive mapping software is being used to present health related data and information online in New Zealand

InstantAtlas in action

Caroline Fyfe, Research Assistant, has been working on the New Zealand, Centre for Public Health Research website CPHROnline. Here she tells us how the project got off the ground and the benefits of using InstantAtlas.

What is your project?

Our project is called CPHROnline. The website allows health professionals, academics and the public to access all kinds of health related data online via a series of interactive maps. As well as mapping health data, CPHROnline reports include bar charts comparing health data between different regions and time series charts which show how health indicators within each region have changed over time.

How did you come across InstantAtlas mapping software?

Our associate director (Associate Professor Barry Borman) had previous experience of using InstantAtlas for interactive mapping projects when he was Manager of Public Health Intelligence at the epidemiology and surveillance group of the Ministry of Health. I was employed specifically to develop CPHROnline using mapping software.

How did you get started?

Once I had been through a number of the InstantAtlas online tutorials it was relatively straightforward and just a matter of knowing how to set up the Excel files so they would link with InstantAtlas. We began using InstantAtlas Desktop but then migrated to the Server version because one of the challenges we faced was finding the best platform to present the data. Having the Server version solved this for us because we were able to customise the end-user pages. We were able to re-brand these pages to suit our corporate style.


What sort of feedback have you had on the interactive maps?

We've had some very positive feedback and because the website is accessible to the public we get a wide range of users. Our main users are Ministry of Health employees as well as staff from the Ministry for the Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, District Health Boards and Ministry for Primary Industries. Data is available at District Health Board level so it can be used by anyone involved in funding, planning and submissions at all levels of the health sector.


How are you going to develop the interactive maps?

We recently visited each of the District Health Boards to present the website and find out more about their needs and how they would like the website to develop. One of the things we have already done is move the site to its own virtual server and we are now developing the profile section of the website. Our roadshows also highlighted the need for comparisons between different age groups of Māori and non-Māori populations to make it easier to address inequalities in health.

CPHROnline YouTube Maps and Tables Video

What are the benefits of using this mapping software?

  • Having the data in an accessible format and in one place is of great help to users
  • The website and the use of interactive maps has been a good vehicle for connecting a number of different CPHR projects
  • We are able to avoid duplication by having the same data in one place. It is helping us have a standardised approach
  • The website is helping to reduce the number of ad hoc requests for data

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