PLACES Provides Local Data to Improve Health for U.S. Communities of All Sizes

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented health crisis and has highlighted the importance of health information at the local level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 500 Cities Project is expanding to PLACES (Population Level Analysis and Community Estimates), a first-of-its-kind effort to release health information covering the entire United States down to the city, county and census tract level, including rural areas and small and midsize cities.

PLACES provides 27 diverse health measures for every county, city, and census tract in the United States. The estimates span a range of chronic disease measures, including health outcomes (e.g., prevalence of cancer, poor mental health), unhealthy behaviors (e.g., smoking or sleeping less than seven hours), and prevention practices (e.g., cervical cancer screening, dentist visits) that have a substantial impact on how well and long people live.

The maps and data created by PLACES will serve as a useful, interactive resource for stakeholders across sectors. PLACES offers applications for public officials, city and regional planners, nonprofits, advocates, and anyone working to create healthier, more equitable communities. PLACES can also inform health equity initiatives including identifying emerging health problems and prioritizing health risk behaviors for action.

Work toward the PLACES initiative began in 2016 when CDC, with support from the CDC Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, created the 500 Cities Project to provide city and census tract-level health data for the 500 largest cities in the United States. The expanded data from PLACES provide a nationwide look at both smaller cities and rural areas, which were previously unavailable. This granular level of focus is possible due to innovations in generating model-based small-area estimates for population health action.

Find out how PLACES can help your community here.

Eric Strunz
Eric Strunz is a program officer, Noninfectious Disease Programs, for the CDC Foundation.