ArcGIS Living Atlas

Use the newly-updated CDC PLACES items in Living Atlas to improve health in your community

The past two years have caused governments, community organizations, businesses, and even individuals to focus a lot more on health. Increasingly, people are seeking health data at a very local level. Effective public health planning requires high-quality health estimates for small geographic areas.

Enter the CDC’s PLACES (Population Level Analysis and Community Estimates) Project, whose tagline is “Local Data for Better Health.” This project is the first-ever project to release health information for many geography levels:

This system complements existing health surveillance data by providing estimates necessary to understand the health issues affecting the residents of local areas of all sizes and regardless of urban or rural status; develop and implement effective and targeted prevention activities; identify health problems; and establish key health objectives. The PLACES Project is an expansion of the original 500 Cities project, reflecting innovations in generating valid small area estimates for population health.

CDC PLACES Living Atlas Items

The feature layer available in ArcGIS Living Atlas provides Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) model-based population-level analysis and community estimates for 29 chronic disease related measures for all counties, places, census tracts, and ZCTAs. Since December 2020 when it was shared publicly, this popular feature layer has been viewed nearly 6 million times so far. That’s because this 1 feature layer powers 30 maps and 5 web applications, all recently updated with more recent data in December 2021.

That’s right – there are 30 multi-scale maps on topics such as Arthritis, High Cholesterol, and Mental Health. These maps now display more recent data. New with this update are two new maps on Depression and General Health. All maps have an informative pop-up that communicates the more details about what is being displayed in the map. The maps are all useable by themselves as Living Atlas items, and are all viewable in the capstone application that the GIS analysts at CDC created using ArcGIS Experience Builder.

The capstone application

This app allows local health departments and jurisdictions, regardless of population size and urban-rural status, to better understand the burden and geographic distribution of health-related outcomes in their areas and assist them in planning public health interventions. Use this app to explore your own community’s health profile. If you work at a state or regional level, see which communities are in most need of assistance, or identify emerging health problems or risk behaviors.

The app shows a county-level map of binge drinking. Category menu on top row highlighted.

The app has a category menu on the top row which allows you to choose from the four major categories: Health Outcomes, Prevention, Health Risk Behaviors, and Health Status.

Health outcomes measures include arthritis, current asthma, high blood pressure, cancer (excluding skin cancer), high cholesterol, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coronary heart disease, diagnosed diabetes, depression, obesity, all teeth lost, and stroke.
Prevention measures include lack of health insurance, visits to doctor for routine checkup, visits to dentist, taking medicine for high blood pressure control, cholesterol screening, mammography use for women, cervical cancer screening for women, colon cancer screening, and core preventive services use for older adults (men and women).
Health risk behaviors include binge drinking, current smoking, physical inactivity, and sleeping less than 7 hours.
Health status measures include mental health not good for ≥14 days per month, physical health not good for ≥14 days per month, and poor or fair health. 
Along with the main application, there are 4 focused applications on each of the broad categories.
Living Atlas search results return 5 applications: the main app as well as the four focused apps for each of the four categories.

Use CDC PLACES data in your work

The feature layer behind it all is available in Living Atlas for your analysis workflows in ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, or ArcGIS Insights. This well-documented feature layer contains descriptive field aliases to assist you as you work. You can also create your own web maps, informative dashboards, captivating stories, and focused Instant Apps with the CDC PLACES data to understand your the health of your community and inform your stakeholders.

More Information


CDC PLACES related text throughout this blog was sourced from materials on

About the author

(she/her/hers) Diana loves working with data. She has over 15 years experience as a practitioner of demography, sociology, economics, policy analysis, and GIS. Diana holds a BA in quantitative economics and an MA in applied demography. She is a senior GIS engineer on ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World's Policy Maps team. Diana enjoys strong coffee and clean datasets, usually simultaneously.

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