Identifying Community Resources Using Data: Healthy Places, Healthy Living

NJHI 2018: Upstream Action Acceleration Camden-specific Module to the NJ Conservation Blueprint Online Mapping Tool

The beauty of maps is that they translate often complicated and complex information so that we may comprehend it in an easy and intuitive way.  Maps help us to see and understand our world, what is around us, and where we live.  We can explore patterns, make associations and new discoveries.  We can answer questions and perhaps even find solutions to problems.  We can relate information and data to place.

The Camden Conservation Blueprint is an interactive map that provides access to a range of complex data. Currently in final development and released today, the Camden Conservation Blueprint is loaded with more than 80 datasets related to public health and the built environment including demographics and health quality, access to services such as healthy food and detailed information about parks and the quality of park amenities.

One way Camden community members and visitors will be able to use the new Camden Conservation Blueprint is to explore data layers showing the amenities available at every park. Families can use this information to find places for active play, playgrounds and spray grounds for children, as well as benches and walking paths for adults. 

According to the 2020 County Health Rankings, Camden County ranks 18 out of New Jersey’s 21 counties for health outcomes, measured by how long people live and how healthy they feel. We know that improving access to fresh, nutritious food and to places for physical activity is critical for improving health outcomes. The map is intended for everyone’s use, from residents to professional planners. Users of the Camden Conservation Blueprint will be able to toggle layers on and off to find information, explore relationships between data themes, tell stories and advocate for meaningful community change.  

Here are just a few of the ways the map can be used:

  1. During our outreach phase we learned that some of the barriers to using parks included a lack of sidewalks, perceived safety and litter. Map users will be able to turn on the map layers that show the presence (or absence) of sidewalks and to see whether a park has fencing or lighting.
  2. We also learned a significant barrier to park use is the quality of park amenities. Map users will be able to explore more than 25 data layers showing the amenities available at every park, from amphitheaters to playgrounds, bike racks, grills and picnic tables. Families can use this information to find places for active play, playgrounds and spray grounds for children, as well as benches and walking paths for adults.  The information could also be used to advocate for increased park maintenance and improvements.
  3. With some scientific predictions of an average five-degree temperature increase in our state over the next 30 years, the available tree canopy data could be used to advocate for more tree plantings to improve air quality, reduce the urban heat effect, and provide residents with a connection to the natural world and a pleasing place to live.
  4. Find vacant or underutilized land parcels that have the potential to become community gardens for growing food as well as places for physical activity and social cohesion.
  5. Develop an understanding of who is living in a neighborhood and whether their recreational needs are being met. As an example, do neighborhoods have a sufficient number of playgrounds to accommodate the children who live nearby, and do families have safety concerns about the playgrounds? Are there enough parks within walking distance of residences and are those parks adequate in terms of size, the amenities provided, and safety? 

We are working to provide the Camden Conservation Blueprint as a source of information and as an advocacy tool for those looking to improve public health and quality of life for all in Camden. Please connect with our project director to share your ideas and feedback.

The Grantee Blog regularly publishes updates from NJHI-supported communities. Bookmark this site to stay up-to-date and share in the work of building healthier communities across New Jersey.

Tanya Nolte
New Jersey Conservation Foundation