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Maps and Mapping at HHS

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The work of HHS impacts Americans all over the country. Displaying information on maps can demonstrate the relationship between sources of information, show off the great work your office is doing, and allow for people to quickly find information relevant to a particular locality. You can create basic maps that plot simple location points, or you can implement with more advanced features including regions with layered display options.

Get Started with Mapping

US Map with points indicated.

Mapping involves first and foremost having the geo-located data appropriately organized and exported in the right file type: Usually an XML or KML. Without getting into the technical weeds here, just know that a map can only be as good as the data behind it.

There are many 3rd-party technologies available for mapping. HHS has signed TOS-amendmentswith Socrata and ZeeMaps, thus clearing legal barriers to using those products. A TOS-amendment with MapBox is also in the works.

Who in HHS is using location?

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has used location-based data to display information from programs that are part of The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

AIDS.gov has created a HIV/AIDS prevention & service provider locator widgetusing data from multiple federal agencies. Check it out:


ATSDR is using location to organize the Public Health Assessments & Health Consultations according to the state or U.S. territory and also by the ATSDR regions where they originated.

These are only a few examples of mapping being used in this Department. Are there other mapping examples in HHS? What do you think are the biggest barriers to implementation?

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Submitted by Marquez on
Allowing people to quickly find information relevant to a particular locality.
Submitted by CGeiler on
Is there a cost associated with the tools usage? And how can I get an account?
Submitted by Bryan Mager on
Is there a reason why the geo mapping software used in this article appears to be "off the shelf" or free? I think the maps look fine but is anyone using robust software like ESRI's Desktop 10?
Submitted by Chas2u2 on
I would imagine this implement is for our National Security. Other than that, I haven’t the slightest idea.
Submitted by aboylen on
For me, the biggest barrier to implementing many new media projects is the lack of a shared code repository for HHS and other agencies. Reinventing the wheel can be so time consuming :)