Amory Hillengas (MUSA ’14) kicked off the MUSA Brown Bag lunches with an exciting discussion about the use of geospatial analysis for the GetHealthPhilly initiative begun by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health. As a geospatial analyst, Amory gathered, analyzed, and displayed geographic information about food access and its relationship with poverty for the city’s upcoming progress report. She explained some of the initiatives started by the Department of Public Health, including the healthy corner stores initiative, and how those programs factored into food access for Philly residents. By using special GIS programs, like Network Analyst which analyzed distances based on street and sidewalk paths rather than Euclidean distances, she is able to more accurately assess food access: “Most people don’t walk through someone’s backyard or through a building to get to the grocery store, so we need to take that into account,” she said. Network Analyst also helps to define walksheds, or areas that people are willing to walk to various types of stores. Other GIS programs, such as Map Algebra, allow her to quantify access to fresh foods by ranking different types of stores – such as convenience stores versus supermarkets – and assigning point values to walksheds. Once this access data is quantified and mapped, it is then overlaid with poverty data to highlight areas of high poverty and low access. By illuminating clusters with the most need on a map, the Department of Public Health can specifically and more effectively target those places. The City of Philadelphia will release their 2014-2015 progress report in the coming months.