Student and faculty medical geographers have created maps of health resources and risk factors in the four corner states.
The Four Corners Health Atlas is a collection of maps created by BYU students and faculty to serve the community in the four corners area. The maps display data relating to the risks and resources connected to health issues. There are projects relating to chronic or respiratory disease, radon, food deserts, access to health care, driving distances, mental health facilities, health care access, maternal health, race, and insurance coverage. To see the maps, follow this link to the project’s website, Four Corners Health Atlas.
The project began in Dr. Chantel Sloan’s Medical Geography class, where the students each chose a health project and used census data and mapping programs to create a map that represents the health issue in the four states. Dr. Sloan said, “What’s really great about the project is that students can pick a topic that really drives them and apply the skills that they’ve learned in class to that topic directly.” In the semesters following their time in the class, many students have continued with the project and taken their research further.
Bryan Radmall, a student medical geographer, is mapping the areas with high rates of opioid-related mortalities that are underserved by treatment facilities in the Four Corners Area. He has created two maps, one showing where substance abuse treatment facilities are located and the time it takes for residents to drive to them, and a second showing the opioid-related mortality rates for each county.
The maps are available online for residents and health care professionals in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico to use, and are a great resource. Dr. Sloan said, “The goal is to help health departments and potentially government officials to know what resources are needed and what is going on in their states.” There is also potential for government officials in the four corner states to work with the students and request maps.
Creating the maps has also been a meaningful experience for the students. Rebekah Read, a student medical geographer, said, “It’s been cool to see how much there is that you can study and make maps about, and you can see patterns.” Radmall said, “I have absolutely loved being a part of the four corners project! I got involved in public health because I had a desire to make a difference in the health of communities I care about, and working on this project has given me a set of tools I can use to make that a reality.”
Using these maps will help health care and public health professionals understand the patterns in the data in their states and help them better serve the residents of their states.