Can Computer Vision Models Help Us Picture Better Health Outcomes?

photos of streets and neighborhoods on blue and green gradient map of the United States

Guest post by Andrew Wiley, Video Producer, NLM Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL).

NLM recently featured a video that highlights an exciting project funded through the NLM Extramural Programs Division.

A team led by Quynh Nguyen, PhD, MSPH, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, used a massive repository of millions of images of all road intersections and street segments in the United States to characterize neighborhood-built environments. Neighborhood attributes have been shown to influence health; however, advances in neighborhood research have been constrained by the lack of neighborhood data for many geographical areas, and few neighborhood studies examine features unique to rural locations.

Dr. Nguyen and her team used regression models to estimate associations between features of built environments and county health outcomes, controlling for risk factors like county-level demographics, economics, and population density. Use of health information allowed researchers to determine relationships between the characteristics of a neighborhood and individual-level health outcomes. Findings from this research indicate that built environment features such as a lack of crosswalks in neighborhoods, housing density, and single-lane roads may be associated with a variety of diseases (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.) as well as adverse health outcomes including premature mortality.

Watch the video about this research and find the transcript here.

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Andrew Wiley

Video Producer, Office of Communications and Public Liaison, NLM

Mr. Wiley is a video producer and writer for NLM OCPL. Before joining NLM in 2008, Mr. Wiley produced local television in Frederick, Maryland, and worked as a video journalist for The Frederick News-Post.

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