Asset Mapping in Chicago


PIVOT Dublin were delighted to have Dr David Robinson and other people in various fields of expertise as Guest Curators of our blog in April 2013. These posts share insights into how we can discover new approaches to meeting the challenges and opportunities that an ageing society brings.

Professor Stacy Lindau is Associate Professor in Obstetrics/Gynaecology and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Chicago. She has published widely on sexuality and ageing and the relationship between urban design and health.

The University of Chicago, including my medical practice, is located on Chicago’s South Side – about 5 miles south of the city’s vibrant center. The South Side is home to more than 860,000 people, about half of whom live in poverty.

Urban Health Initiative

The University of Chicago medical center is devoting significant effort to transforming its relationship with our neighboring communities. This effort, the Urban Health Initiative, envisions that the South Side of Chicago will become a model of excellent urban health by 2025.

My role with the Urban Health Initiative is to conduct science that advances this vision – something we have come to call “science in service to the community.” The idea of science in service to the community required us to engage expertise and leadership from the community, beginning with our earliest planning efforts.

In exchange for partnership, community members stated three conditions:

  1. Create paid jobs for community youth to participate in the scientific activities
  2. Deliver data that are widely accessible and useful to the community
  3. Assume a broad definition of “health”

The university researchers felt that to become a model of excellent urban health, we needed first to account for all of our existing assets, beginning with places across all sectors offering goods, services and/or jobs to the community.


Together, these ideas evolved into MAPSCorps – Meaningful, Active, and Productive Science in Service to Community – a youth employment, development, and hands-on science/technology/engineering/math experience that generates granular, real-time data about all community assets.

Since 2009, more than 150 urban youth have been employed and trained by MAPSCorps. These youth, paired with science-oriented university students, work in teams every summer to canvass, on foot with smart phones and MapApp™, every block of every street in a 50mi2 (129km2) region of Chicago’s South Side, roughly the geographic size of Dublin.

Youth have gathered data (updated at least annually) on more than 8000 community assets that have been shared via two public websites and, in Spanish, since October, 2009.

Now, with funding from a Health Care Innovation Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, MAPSCorps data are being linked to electronic health record systems so physicians and other health care providers can make real-time, personalized referrals to community organizations and businesses that people of all ages can use to stay healthy, live independently, and manage with disease. This effort is called CommunityRx.

Local Asset Mapping Project

On an unusually warm October, 2011 day, we welcomed Dublin-based researchers, including Drs. Roseanne Kenny, David Robinson, Gerard Boyle and Ms. Jennifer Feighan, who were interested in learning more about MAPSCorps. Together, we mapped the small South Side community called Fuller Park, an African American neighborhood that was, at the turn of the last century, home to many Irish American immigrants employed by the nearby railroads and stockyards.

Last May, I spent my 43rd birthday with these same colleagues, visiting the streets and people of the Liberties neighborhood. We rode the Liberties in horse and buggy. We met in a local community center to talk about local needs and lessons learned in Chicago. We envisioned MAPSCorps happening there in Dublin, where local youth would become the experts on resources in their community, gathering data that could be used to support good health and independent living.

What’s better than celebrating my birthday in Dublin? MAPSCorps in Dublin – a new baby called the Local Asset Mapping Project (LAMP), date of birth April 24th, 2013.


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