Understanding the most effective ways to engage community members in using technology and data as tools for influencing change in Wisconsin
Lead PI:
Joshua Garoon

Personal and population health are greatly influenced by the environments people interact with on a daily basis: the communities in which they live, work, learn, play, and worship. This project aims to improve understanding of how community members can equitably and effectively use technology and data tools to characterize their own community environments. Its goal is to aid community members in taking control of data collection and analysis processes that reveal determinants of their health. This promises to concomitantly expand their capacities to act on those data and analyses, contributing to community-level change. For these purposes, this project will pilot in Brown County, Wisconsin a smartphone app called Streetwyze that enables real-time data collection and documentation by community members of the community’s infrastructures, both built environment (e.g., transit systems) as well as social, economic and policy/governance infrastructures (e.g., forms of social capital, social cohesion, social connectedness, sense of belonging, trust).

The Streetwyze technology makes local knowledge accessible by creating two-way feedback loops and data connections between cities and counties; neighborhoods and cities; and patients and providers, so that they can co-produce solutions that help secure shared benefits. Using the Streetwyze technology, researchers working together with public health practitioners will engage with community leaders and stakeholders to address questions including: 1) How can we most equitably support community member engagement in technology-driven, community-level data collection and analysis?; 2) How can the Streetwyze app be most effectively customized for community coalitions in particular communities?; 3) What information/data can be gathered about place-community relations through community-member stakeholder utilization of the Streetwyze app?; 4) How could Streetwyze implementation be scaled for future, additional communities/coalitions in Wisconsin?; and 5) How can communities use secondary data sets (e.g., on income, education, occupation, and other social determinants of health) to complement community-level data and insights on health equity and health inequality in Wisconsin? By integrating community-generated data with 'Big Data' and predictive data analysis through the app, cities and community leaders (as well as hospitals and health care providers) can track health equity indicators; identify hot spots and cool spots for equitable development; and predict trajectories of vulnerability.

Joshua Garoon
I study the ways in which health, development, and the environment intersect across Africa and the United States, and how those intersections manifest in health inequalities at the local level. I’m particularly interested in how health inequalities are shaped by global, national, and local stakeholders’ attempts to define and act on community and neighborhood resources; in short, I investigate environmental governance. My work cuts across anthropology, sociology, and epidemiology, and my projects in both Africa and the U.S. employ a community-engaged research framework.
Performance Period: 10/01/2020 - 12/31/2021
Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Award Number: 1952022