Building Geographic Information System Capacity in Local Health Departments: Lessons From a North Carolina Project
State government, university, and local health department (LHD) partners collaborated to build the geographic information system (GIS) capacity of 5 LHDs in North Carolina. Project elements included procuring hardware and software, conducting individualized and group training, developing data layers, guiding the project development process, coordinating participation in technical conferences, providing ongoing project consultation, and evaluating project milestones. The project provided health department personnel with the skills and resources required to use sophisticated information management systems, particularly those that address spatial dimensions of public health practice.
This capacity-building project helped LHDs incorporate GIS technology into daily operations, resulting in improved time and cost efficiency. Keys to success included (1) methods training rooted in problems specific to the LHD, (2) required project identification by LHD staff with associated timelines for development, (3) ongoing technical support as staff returned to home offices after training, (4) subgrants to LHDs to ease hardware and software resource constraints, (5) networks of relationships among LHDs and other professional GIS users, and (6) senior LHD leadership who supported the professional development activities being undertaken by staff.