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HER Map: Mapping the Health and Educational Needs of Women Veterans

Yesterday marked both the beginning of Geography Awareness Week and Veteran’s Day. Geography plays a very important role in veterans’ lives. Location can have an influence on the accessibility of health and educational resources, and this is especially true for women veterans, who experience barriers in receiving gender-specific health care and relevant information on health and educational resources. It’s important to provide information to this population, because it grows each year. As of 2018, 1.6 million women veterans made up 8.3% of the veteran population; by 2043, women veterans will comprise 16.3% of the veteran population.

In order to address this need, the HER (Health and Educational Resources) Map—an interactive web-mapping application describing health and educational resources useful to women veterans—was created. To ensure that the HER Map fits the needs of women veterans, it was essential to collect input from women veterans during its creation. Women veterans and women veteran organizations were consulted throughout the process, from the beginning of building the application, to the user-experience testing phase. Women veterans were able to share their experiences in receiving gender-specific health care along with desired health and educational resources through surveys and interviews.

Dorris Scott at the Women Veterans of San Antonio Membership Meeting. Photo from Women Veterans of San Antonio.

A prototype of the HER Map application was showcased during a Women Veterans of San Antonio Membership Meeting, where additional input  was gathered. As a result, three components of the HER Map were created: HER Map: San Antonio, HER Map: Women Veteran Groups and Advocates, and HER Story Map. These web mapping applications were built using ESRI ArcGIS Online and ESRI AppBuilder.

HER Map Web Applications

HER Map: San Antonio is a compilation of health and educational resources that is relevant for women veterans in the City of San Antonio, such as women’s health providers, nonprofits, and educational profits.

Shows a screenshot of the application interface, which displays map of San Antonio with various purple location markers designating health and educational resources for women veterans.

HER Map: Women Veterans Groups and Advocates is a nationwide listing of organizations and individuals dedicated to serving the needs of women veterans. In addition, there is a listing of state women veteran coordinators and directors of veterans’ affairs.

Shows a screenshot of the application interface, which displays map of the United States of America with purple location markers designating organizations and individuals dedicated to serving women veterans nationwide.

Finally, HER Story Map: San Antonio, through spatial accessibility modeling, aims to serve as a health communication tool that will help a broader audience better understand the accessibility of women’s health providers to women veterans.

Shows a screenshot of the application interface, which displays map of San Antonio with purple location markers designating health services for women veterans.

Because there is no other known web-mapping application tailored for women veterans’ needs, it is important to maintain and update HER Map. The app originally started as a dissertation project at the University of Georgia, but further updating and maintenance of HER Map will occur at Washington University in St. Louis. To develop strategies on outreach and on updating and maintaining HER Map, it was important to reach out to on-campus stakeholders for veterans, such as the Office of Military & Veteran Services.

Currently, there is a plan to begin work on HER Map: St. Louis through outreach to the women veteran organizations in the area. Outreach to other veteran stakeholders to raise awareness of the tool will also take place. Future plans also include updating the existing components of the map. To continue to add and maintain HER Map, the project will be integrated as an educational component in Introduction to GIS classes or as a separate GIS internship at WashU. Working on HER Map will give students real-world experience with a mapping project while increasing their awareness of women veterans’ issues.

HER Map can be accessed on the WashU Office of Military & Veteran Services Resources page.