Researchers apply GIS mapping to ID vulnerable older adults


University of Miami researchers mapped three counties to identify socially and medically vulnerable older adults who might be falling through the cracks, according to research published this month in The Gerontologist.

For the study, census data, geographic information systems (GIS) mapping techniques and spatial analysis were used to pinpoint adults who were not being identified by traditional population-wide healthcare analyses in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida. The project grew from the observations of mobile health clinicians affiliated with Nova Southeastern University in Broward County that a surprising number of older adults lacked access to medical services, according to an announcement.

The researchers looked for 27 measures for social vulnerability and 49 measures of medical vulnerability among two groups: those over the age of 65 and those over 85. They found the key determinants of social vulnerability to be age, large household size and Hispanic ethnicity. Medical vulnerability was linked to disease burden, access--or lack of--to emergency cardiac services, availability of nursing home and hospice beds, access to home healthcare and mental health services.

The study's authors determined that social and medical vulnerability differ and overlap only slightly in the three counties. They identified an emerging pocket of social vulnerability in central Broward County and an emerging pocket of medical vulnerability in Palm Beach County.

Studies such as this can help policy makers create targeted and low-cost services to address problems facing subpopulations in these areas, the authors note.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in March released an interactive map to help identify health disparities among Medicare patients.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract
- read the announcement