Dan Rushton

Healthcare Analytics: How Boston uses Location Intelligence

The Vital Village Network began in the winter of 2010 when an interdisciplinary group of practitioners at Boston Medical Center, New England’s largest safety net hospital, began to search for different approaches to improving health equity.

With a view to better understanding social threats to child well-being they started to forge a series of nontraditional partnerships with community residents, agencies, and service providers in diverse sectors. To date and with the support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation they now have over 65 community-based agency partners and over 150 active participants in network activities.

Vital Village Logo


This network of residents and agencies is committed to maximizing child, family, and community wellbeing with a vision to cultivate collective responsibility for all children. One of the objectives in achieving this vision is to improve the quality of data and tools which allow community residents and institutions to promote family and community safety. This includes the analysis and visualization of a wide range of location data related to Boston and the surrounding area.

In this post we have highlighted a few of the ‘Vital Signs’ visualizations available within their publicly shared community data dashboard.

Food Access

Limited access to nutritious food can be a contributor to obesity, chronic disease, and poor nutrition. With support from Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Mayor’s Office of Food Access, Madison Park Development Corporation, Greater Boston Food Bank, Project Bread, local university and graduate school students, created an interactive map to help community members find easily accessible, low-cost, high-quality food options in their neighborhoods.

Early Education Access

The second dashboard shows Licensed Early Education and Care Providers by Program Type and Capacity across the entire state of Massachusetts. As well as democratizing access to this type of data for families across the state, the team were able to make a few observations including that neighborhoods with low center-based preschool program capacity show relatively low neighborhood-based resources and conditions that influence children’s health and development, indicated by the Child Opportunity Index.

Housing Access

The Community Housing Data Tool produced by Vital Village features a number of different maps intended for individuals, families, and organizations interested in learning more about the state of housing within Boston. The various maps include data on blood lead levels, smoking prevalence, needle safety, crime density, community resources, eviction rates, home inspection levels, and much more.

As an example the map below shows crime density at block group level in Boston in the year 2017. (A block group is the smallest geographical unit for which the census bureau publishes sample data, and generally contains between 600 and 3,000 people.)

Visualizations like these demonstrate that by boosting collaboration and empowering decision-making, cities and communities can start to solve some of their most pressing social and healthcare challenges using spatial data and analysis.

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About the author
Dan Rushton

Dan is the Content Marketing Manager at CARTO. Dan holds a Masters in Electronic Engineering with business experience in development, sales, training and marketing. Prior to joining CARTO, Dan was a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Apple.

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