Health, data, and equity: What do our data say about our health and our communities?
Enbal has spent her career focused on better understanding what makes individuals behave the way they do, better understanding the environment in which they live and how those environments may promote or compromise health. She is a behavioral scientist, epidemiologist, and geospatial scientist. With the advances in technology and the speed in which it has grown, flourished, we are now in a place where we know more than we have ever known about humans living in environments throughout the world. What does that mean? It means we are drowning in data, yet struggling to use those data to better inform how we can create communities to improve how we work, live, and play.
Geospatial health is the study of how location impacts all of what we do, who we are, and who and what we interact with. Enbal uses data sources from satellite imagery to the smartphone and smartwatch. These sources of data are only starting to tell us so much about the world in which we live, and the experiences we have in those environments. From those images and smartphone location data, we can see how individuals move around their community and how that mobility may impact their health and security. We see how rural community members drive farther, urban community members often are traveling for similar amounts of time; both of which seem to be exhausted by the amount of time they are traveling to work, the grocery stores, and other resources in their communities. We can identify how much green space and individual encounters each day, which not only removes toxins in the ground, air, and water; it makes people less mentally distressed. These types of findings have driven my research to encourage bigger and better change in our communities through our health systems, parks services, and employment opportunities, just to name a few. Enbal works with healthcare systems, plans, insurers; public health departments, and community organizations to provide them insights on how to leverage these data to better know their patients. They usually only see patients or records of patients, not the daily experiences they must have. This data can provide those insights.