Bringing micro to the macro: how citizen science data enrich geospatial visualizations to advance health equity

Secondary Analysis of Steps for Change

Enrollment for Steps for Change project: September 2017 - November 2019
Visualization project: January 2022 - July 2023

Project Goal

  • Use citizen science methods to understand and address health disparities by examining the factors that influence physical activity in low-income aging adults.
  • Via a mixed methods research design, to combine citizen science-collected micro-scale and macro-scale data, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the environmental factors impacting health.

Guiding Question

How do large scale census tract or neighborhood level data and micro scale personal data come together to better understand the environment in which someone lives?

Project Description

This Our Voice project engaged a diverse group of low-income aging adults to assess the physical and social factors in their neighborhoods that impact their daily physical activity and well-being. This project was a part of a larger Steps for Change randomized controlled trial based in San Francisco, California. The primary aim of the trial was to assess the effectiveness of the Our Voice method in supporting increased physical activity levels and healthier neighborhoods among adults aged 40 years or older living in or near affordable public housing. Community members who participated in this project collected data across several housing sites in four different Santa Clara County zip codes. By integrating micro-scale with macro-scale data, this allowed for a more complex understanding of the relationships between environment and health outcomes.


  • Prior to the project, most mapping and visualization applications mainly relied on aggregate-level data, which limited the local variations that affect health
  • Additionally, historic data analysis predominantly focused on census tract level or higher resolutions, disregarding the more individualized details that are made available via micro-scale data sources
  • Previous research has highlighted the importance of a mixed methods study design to better capture the intricacies of living in different geographic locations

Activities and Outcomes

  • Enhanced understanding of the environmental factors that influence physical activity and health outcomes among low-income aging adults in the Bay Area, CA
  • Analysis of the layered multi-scale data and mixed methods data hold the promise of informing evidence-based policies and local improvements in the surveyed neighborhoods
  • Future research: To continue exploring the most effective ways to combine and display disparate data types.


Associated Publication

Our Voice Impact

"This experience has changed my life.  I see inadequacies everywhere I go as it relates to pedestrian access and safety.  I even stop [at] construction sites to remind them to be considerate of the handicapped in our community.  Thank you all so much for this awareness and empowerment to require change."

~ Pam Jiner, GirlTrek Advocacy Leader, Denver CO