RTI International named an Obesity Data Challenge winner

Data visualization map developed by RTI details obesity across U.S. communities 

Image of RTI's map of obesity rates in the New York City area

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC— As part of an effort to tackle obesity, RTI International has been named a U.S. Obesity Data Challenge winner for developing a high-resolution map that demonstrates obesity at the community level. The award was presented by the de Beaumount Foundation, the Health Data Consortium and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

"Although obesity is a national problem, many of the policies and interventions that would be most valuable in reducing obesity occur at the community or neighborhood level," said Bill Wheaton, director of RTI's Geospatial Science and Technology Program. "However, until now, high-resolution maps of obesity at the community level did not exist. We filled this gap to show where the most at-risk populations are and to better help target outreach, interventions and community health activities."

The Obesity Data Challenge called for data tools, visualizations and apps to assist public health officials and policymakers in helping patients address obesity at a personal and community level. RTI was selected as a second place winner for creating the Neighborhood Map of U.S. Obesity from public, government data sources. 

RTI's highly-detailed, interactive map combines obesity data with a geographic information system database to show localized obesity data for every 250 meters nationwide. Researchers and health officials can download the GIS data and add additional data sources to the map to support analysis and decision-making at the community level. 

The Neighborhood Map of U.S. Obesity allows users to see the percent of the adult population that is obese, the difference in the percent of population that is obese as compared to the national average, and the statistically significant clusters of obesity. Community organizations and practitioners will be able to understand where the problem is within their communities to take targeted action in the areas with the highest obesity rates.

"Working with our federal and university partners to convert these data into decisions and policies that reduce obesity is our number one priority," Wheaton said. "We hope to build on and extend this work by doing a similar analysis, but with children as the focus. We would also like to add additional geospatial data sources to the site such as healthy food outlets, farmers markets, food deserts and other layers that help explain some of the limitations in access to healthy food."

The interactive obesity map created by RTI is available here