Boundary refinements for standardized sub-county geographies

Authors: Angela K. Werner*, Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), D. Aaron Vinson, Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Heather Strosnider, Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Topics: Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: aggregation, boundaries, environmental health, small area, sub-county, surveillance, tracking
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (Tracking Program) is actively working on increasing the availability and accessibility of sub-county data. This will improve the resolution of data currently available via the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (Tracking Network), which currently has primarily state- or county-level data. While finer resolution of data can help to better address environmental health issues and improve surveillance, there are also challenges. Some of these challenges include ensuring calculation of stable rates and protection of confidential data.

To address these challenges, preliminary work used census tract boundaries as well as health and population data to identify optimal population thresholds for two aggregation schemes. This resulted in a population threshold of 5,000 persons for the Tracking Program’s more common outcomes and a population threshold of 20,000 persons for the Tracking Program’s rarer outcomes. This project used these preliminary standardized sub-county geographies and tested a series of refinements to further improve the utility of the standardized geographies. Some of these refinements included testing merging methods, considering the inclusion or exclusion of group quarters and university housing, restricting within city boundaries, and exploring urban/rural classification when merging. Next steps include creating national maps using the standardized sub-county geographies, testing the aggregations with annual census tract-level data submitted by recipients for the Fall 2018 data call, and using the standardized geographies to disseminate sub-county data via the Tracking Network.

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