Health, Human Services Data Added to Regional Knowledge Network

By Rachel M. Teaman

Release Date: October 5, 2006

* Which neighborhoods in the City of Buffalo have the highest percentage of disabled elderly?

* What is the distribution of lung cancer across Western New York?

* How does the rate of HIV mortality in Southern Ontario compare to that of Western New York?

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Answers to these and other key questions on health in the binational Buffalo Niagara region can now be found at the Regional Knowledge Network (RKN), an online information resource developed by the University at Buffalo Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth.

Launched in its first phase in March 2006, RKN rkn.buffalo.edu is designed to inform regional decision making by providing access to data, maps, lists and resources on 10 topics for the region spanning Western New York and Southern Ontario. The latest enhancement of the RKN is the addition of 79 data variables and dynamic mapping capacities within its Health & Human services topic, a development supported by a major grant from The John R. Oishei Foundation.

"RKN is an integral component of the institute's mission to promote regional progress by building understanding on challenging topics," said Kathryn A. Foster, director of the institute. "The addition of these data and maps is an important step in RKN's development, and will help to shed light on timely health and human services policy issues."

The 79 Health & Human Services data variables cut across the categories of disability, disease, mortality, health behaviors, mental health, child health, and social needs. Some patterns in regional health revealed by RKN include high rates of motor vehicle fatalities in Western New York's rural counties, Chautauqua County as the top per-capita spender on Medicaid, and a mean of one to three years as the number of years a foster child is in foster care in Western New York.

For five of the 10 topic areas (Population & Demographics, Government, Economy, Education & Schools, and now Health & Human Services), RKN users may 1) download data; 2) produce customized maps or view reference maps; 3) sort and download lists of other topical information; and 4) link to

related resources. Lists and resources are also available for the other five topic areas, with data and maps in progress.

"RKN can tell provocative stories about regional issues," Foster added. "It is our hope that RKN becomes a go-to tool for government officials, news media, researchers and citizens in search of the most up-to-date information on Buffalo Niagara."

A new user-friendly Web interface has also been added to RKN as part of the latest round of developments. Funding from the Oishei Foundation will enable the institute to fully develop RKN by May 2008 with data and maps for all 10 topic areas and new information tools for pin-mapping, enhanced searches, and advanced data charting and analysis. On tap for the addition of data and maps are the Regional Assets and Public Safety topic areas.

A major research and public service unit of the University at Buffalo, the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth plays a vital role in addressing key policy and governance issues for regions, with focused analysis of the Buffalo Niagara region. An affiliate of the UB Law School, the institute leverages the resources of the university and binational community to pursue a wide range of scholarship, projects and initiatives that frame issues, inform decisions and guide change.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.