Measuring Health Service Accessibility with GIS

This spring Todd Schuble presented at the Association of American Geographers annual meeting held in downtown Chicago on spatial analysis findings related to health care accessibility on the South Side of Chicago.  Even though most access is measured according to physical distance, cost in terms of time or money is often more relatable and more important to individuals.  Using GIS software, Todd Schuble created map outputs showing the travel time from every city block within 35 community areas to various health assets in the region.

The analysis would not have been possible without one of the primary datasets made available by the University of Chicago’s South Side Health and Vitality Studies (SSHVS). SSHVS headed by Dr. Stacy Lindau has produced a great deal of research papers, spatial data, and community programs since inception.  The goal being to bring together health researchers and community members to generate knowledge and study the impact of interventions that will create and maintain good health.  One of the successful programs to come out of SSHVS is MAPSCorps (  MAPSCorps collects the locations of place-based assets a given study area (almost 1/3 of the city of Chicago) while educating student (primarily high school) researchers.  A bounty of longitudinal spatial data has been generated by MAPSCorps from 2009-present.  Over 16,000+ asset locations have been recorded and are available for free by request.

MAPSCorps asset data was combined with street centerline data provided by City of Chicago ( and public transportation schedule data (GTFS) provided by Chicago Transit Authority (  Utilizing all three of these datasets, an approximate travel time using only public transportation and walking was created for all health assets within the given study area.

This output will now allow researchers and those with an interest in public health to ask various questions.  Is population density is an indicator of services?  What drives the clustering or placement of services?  Are there advantages to economies of scale?