Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Infrastructure Part I&II (Groups 3&4)

This week was the last week I followed the members of Infrastructure groups 3 & 4. So, because the project is coming to an end, I asked a few of the members to reflect on their experiences.

Charlotte Rajasingh (Group 4) stated:

"I never thought about how much actually went into the relationship between health care and food. It is way, way too easy to say well everyone should exercise more and eat healthier food and then they will be healthier people without looking at the ways for that to take place. If you live in a neighborhood with high crime or broken sidewalks, there is no gym near you (or the one near you is expensive), exercise is a far more demanding request. Everyone definitely doesn't have equal access to certain institutions which might encourage or enable "healthy" behavior. Since I was in charge of hospitals and fitness related elements, I don't think I'm at liberty to say that much about food right now. However, from just those two things, it is apparent that regions in cities are provided with differing resources for health maintenance and that health outcomes could clearly be linked to this."

Aaron Abelson (Group 3) stated:

"Learning about the capabilities of the GIS software (the computer program we use to make the maps) has been fascinating and learning the basics of using the software has been enlightening. Using the software, the possibilities are endless in terms of the data that you can use to analyze various elements of infrastructure in the cities and in terms of the population information available to learn about the demographics. I specifically have learned about the racial makeup of Newark and how that relates to the proximity of infrastructure elements like banks and social services. There have definitely been some potential problems that have emerged. However, we have been hindered by our inexperience and lack of time and cannot explore the presence of infrastructure in NJ cities as much as would be possible with more knowledge of the software and more time to compare data. I believe we will come up with some interesting conclusions, but it will remain to be seen how it fits in with the research and conclusions of other groups."

Qiong Qiu (Group 3) stated:

"As a freshman, I know very little about New Jersey. I am glad that this project gave me the opportunity to learn about the cities around Princeton. The mapping project taught me how use the GIS program to compile raw data onto a single map for analysis. Although I am not directly studying food availability, I believe that mapping infrastructures contribute to a more complete look at the daily lives of people in Trenton. I was also excited to learn that most of the social services organizations and churches are located near or right on bus lines, which provides easy access for people without cars. However, because of these existing infrastructures, finding a accessible location for new whole foods or grocery stories may be difficult. It is also unfortunate that the only sizable park is located on the edge of Trenton, which shows that there are few places for exercising for people living in the downtown area. Thus, this week I will add the location of fitness centers on to my map for a more complete view of the opportunities for exercising in Trenton."

Cornelia Hall (Group 4) stated:

"From my experience working on this project, I'd say that what we are analyzing is definitely an important contribution to the overall CBLI project. Infrastructural elements like food sources are of course critical to a health project focusing on food access. Also, cross-comparisons across all four cities will allow us to compare our results to data on health statuses in those cities and look for a correlation. I don't think it's a perfect analysis, in that we still can't "map" which of our elements are frequented most by residents, or how often they travel farther away to access other resources--critical issues for understanding our project. But these components will appear in other groups' contributions to the project, so I look forward to seeing it all come together."

Also of interest, a few more maps. Whereas last time the map showed elements like transportation, schools, parks, etc., these maps illustrate the actual "food and health" structures. These maps are considered "works in progress" by their creator, Alexandra Satty (Group 4). She mapped grocery stores in relation Hispanic populations in New Brunswick and fruit and vegetable stands in relation to black populations in Newark:

It was a pleasure working with both of the groups. Personally, I had never known much about maps, or map making before having worked with them and having gone to the GIS Library. Doing this project also opened my eyes to the importance of mapping factors other than population, topography, climate, etc. Using maps to illustrate sociological factors is actually very fascinating.

I would like to thank all the members of Infrastructure groups 3&4 for their contribution to this project. Please look forward to reading their final project, which will include an analysis of their map findings. Thank you so much for your time.