27063 Geo-Location, Collaboration, Mhealth, & More: Navigating HIV Prevention & Services Across the Federal Government with One Simple Tool

Naima Cozier, MSPH, Health Services Division, John Snow Inc. (JSI), Atlanta, GA and Miguel Gomez, BS, Office of HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC

Background:  As more and more people are using the mobile web to look for health information and services, location-based services are becoming increasingly important for the public health community.

Program background:  Over the past year, AIDS.gov, a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of HIV/AIDS Policy, has been collaborating with other Federal agencies (U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Health Resources and Services Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Office of Population Affairs, among others) to develop the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Service Provider Locator. The Locator started as a web-based service built on top of the Google Maps API (application programming interface) combining key Federal HIV programs such as HIV testing, mental health services, health centers, substance abuse clinics, housing services, and family planning services. By entering a ZIP code, city, or address, a user will see a Google map and a list of nearby services. The Locator has expanded from the AIDS.gov website, to a sharable web-based widget and a mobile, geo-location enabled site. Anyone can embed the widget on their website or blog by pasting one line of code into their site. AIDS.gov has been collaborating with Federal, community, and corporate partners to embed the widget on their sites. For example AIDS.gov is working with the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to pilot a customized skin of the widget on their partners’ websites. In addition, mobile phone users can access the Locator on the AIDS.gov mobile website (www.m.AIDS.gov). For geo-location enabled mobile devices, the AIDS.gov Locator can recognize users’ locations (with permission) and can guide them to nearby services.

Evaluation Methods and Results:  The AIDS.gov team uses Google Analytics to track how many people are accessing the Locator online and via the mobile web. The team also uses Omniture to track what other sites are embedding the widget. Since the launch of the Locator in June 2010, there have been over 16,000 Locator searches and over 100 websites have embedded the Locator widget.

Conclusions:  The AIDS.gov team has found the Locator to be an accessible, measurable, and effective way to link people quickly and easily to HIV prevention, testing, mental health, and other services. Furthermore, providing people with opportunities to customize their own widget has led to creative participation and engagement among key partners.

Implications for research and/or practice:  The mHealth landscape provides ample opportunities for the public health community, and the Locator’s mobile platform is one example of this. By sharing their experience developing, promoting, monitoring, and evaluating a geo-location services tool, AIDS.gov hopes to further the dialogue in the field and inform future mHealth initiatives and data sharing. In addition, the team will share lessons learned, and potential future directions and collaboration opportunities for their work relating to geo-location and mobile health.