NPO Mapping Case Study: Arthritis Foundation
The Arthritis Foundation's Heartland Region office serves Americans with arthritis throughout the upper midwest. Arthritis affects tens of millions of Americans each year - the second most common chronic condition after heart disease. When your organization's constituent base is that large, it's important to make sure that you're offering services to as many people as possible and to make those services as accessible as possible. In this article, we'll examine how the Arthritis Foundation is using mapping technologies to meet those requirements!
One of the services this office provides its members is an up-to-date list of arthritis-friendly exercise programs in the region. AF staff manually maintain this list, which includes aquatics and tai chi among other exercise programs. This process has a couple of drawbacks:
- A text list doesn't portray area(s) where no exercise services are available.
- Most people find it difficult to determine their geographically closest location from a text list.
The Arthritis Foundation asked MapTogether to provide a customized training session for their program staff, showing them how to easily create their own service area maps using free tools such as Google Maps and Google Earth.
Training began with a look at the location lists in spreadsheet format. After some gentle massaging of the list data, including an import into Google Spreadsheets and Fusion Tables, AF staff and their MapTogether consultant began generating service coverage maps for each state in the region. Different maps were created for each state and for each type of exercise program and were then combined in a Google Earth visualization. In addition to the 3D presentation in Google Earth, AF staff learned how to embed their maps on their own website using the My Maps feature from Google.
Mapping the location data offers the following advantages over the non-map process used before:
- By overlaying demographic data, it's very easy to see population centers not served by current programs -- these coverage gaps can be targeted with new programs
- An AF staff member unfamiliar with a remote region can now advise partners and constituents of nearby centers in their region by referring to the online map
- The new maps can easily be embedded on any website, allowing visitors to look up the information themselves
Thanks to the customized nature of this hands-on training session, AF program officers went from "Online Mapping Newbies" to "Cyber Cartographers" in just a few hours!