Mapping a healthy future for Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls, Ore. – An Oregon Tech professor is using ‘smart’ maps to help improve the health of people in Klamath Falls.

Geomatics professor John Ritter of Oregon Tech is using Geographic Information Systems (G.I.S.) to map out a healthier Klamath Falls.

“G.I.S. is basically a smart map.”  Explains Professor Ritter.  “Everything that you see on the map has information hidden behind it.  And because of that, you can ask all sorts of interesting questions.”

One map identifies areas of town where people are more prone to obesity – or diabetes – or heart disease.

“We’ve been able to actually find pockets within Klamath Falls that are subject to one disease category or another.”  Notes Ritter.

Another map shows how close schools are to tobacco retailers – and, markets with healthy options.

“To map out corner grocery stores – to find out where ‘food deserts’ might be.”  Explains Dr. Ritter.

Ritter says another map will help to identify neighborhoods with housing problems.  “To map areas of blight within the city and county, so that we can focus resources and help for these locations.”

Ritter says the maps can also help target healthy neighborhood improvements.  “A protected bike lane for an area that is really in need.  It’s like low-hanging fruit – why don’t we do this?”

Ritter believes geomatics will help to solve even more complex problems in the future.

“G.I.S. is really a tool that we can use to better manage the resources.”

Dr. Ritter recently gave the keynote address at a meeting of the Oregon Chapter of the American College of Physicians.

You’ll find some of the maps discussed in the story at:  www.healthyklamath.org

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