UC Professor’s Research on Illness in Older Adults to be Published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine
Michael Widener’s research focuses on using geographic information systems to pinpoint regional hotspots of chronic illness.
Research from UC assistant professor of geography Michael Widener shows that chronic illness in older adults may be able to be tracked with the help of geography.
Widener’s research revolves around the ElderSmile program, a community-based oral health and primary care screening program in northern Manhattan, New York.
Through his research of this program, Widener found that there are regional hotspots of chronic illness among the older adult population in that area.
“This is important to understand because it allows doctors and public health workers to concentrate their efforts and resources in certain areas,” says Widener. “What’s more, they can explore the environments of the hot spots to better understand what environmental or social factors are causing these higher rates of illness.”
More specifically, says Widener, public health and medical institutions could send mobile clinics to these areas to address a lack of spatial access to more conventional doctors’ offices.
“This allows for a more direct impact as opposed to spending money and distributing resources in areas that don’t necessarily need these targeted services,” he says.
As an urban health geographer, Widener’s role in this research was to use computer and mathematical tools to find spatial patterns in health data. To do this, he used geographic information systems to find disease hotspots, measure access to health care services and create computer simulations.
The American Journal of Preventative Medicine is set to publish his article based on this research — “Patterns of Chronic Conditions in Older Adults” — in its June 2014 issue.