ASk A Researcher

February 2014

New Geographic Profiles: How they can work for you

The new North Dakota Compass Project Director, Kendra Erickson-Dockter, introduces all-new Geographic Profiles for a variety of state geographic levels (e.g., county, metropolitan areas, and Native American reservation areas) and Gretchen Dobervich, the North Dakota director for the Alzheimer’s Association, a website user, gives her perspective on how to utilize the Profiles.


Q: What are Geographic Profiles?

Geographic Profiles give a snapshot of useful data across the range of ND Compass topics. The profiles, which pull data from the most important social indicators present on the ND Compass website and deposit them all in one table, make it easy to see quick, at-a-glance information about a location of interest in the state. While we generally have many more years of data available throughout the website, these Geographic Profiles show the most recent data and the 2000 data for a quick and easy comparison where possible. This format helps you easily see location-specific information about populations that have grown or shrunk in the last decade. In addition, by viewing these Geographic Profiles, you can possibly establish what an area’s strengths are, as well as where it may be struggling. These new profiles not only serve as a good way to compare trends over time within specific locations, but also help compare changes from location to location (e.g., region to region, county to county, county to state, etc.).

Q: Why create Geographic Profiles?
Individuals approach data and research in a variety of manners. Some people dig into data by topic or indicator; however, others may dig in by geographical location. Knowing these differences exist, we thought it would be beneficial if we could present our data in a geographic format. In addition, we have realized that sometimes it is just not practical, nor may you have the time, to get into all the details of data available on the website. However, if you would like to see all of the little breakdowns and collection method notes about a data set, you can dig deeper by clicking into the topics and key measures. For instance, for those of you who want to see all of the detailed information, you can click on any topic header (e.g., "Education") and it will take you to that topic overview page to explore key measures (e.g., 3rd grade reading scores), breakdowns (e.g., 3rd grade students achieving reading standards by income), and the associated data, notes, and sources.

Q: What’s in the Geographic Profiles section?
The Geographic Profiles include an Overview page, which provides a quick summary of what Geographic Profiles are and the breakdown of levels of geography which are presented. Profiles are available for the state of North Dakota, the eight state planning regions, 53 counties, metropolitan and micropolitan areas, and the Native American Reservation areas.

Q: Where can I find Geographic Profiles on the website?

You can get to Geographic Profiles from any page on our website. In the upper right-hand corner of the webpage is "Profiles," scroll over “Profiles” and a drop-down menu will appear revealing “Geographic Profiles.” A click will take you to the “Overview” page. From this page you will be able to navigate a variety of profiles by levels of geography. Simply go to the left-side of the page and click on a desired geography and a drop down menu of the selected geography level’s profiles will appear for your selection. For instance, click on “County Profiles” and all 53 counties will appear in a drop down menu. From there, you will be able to click on any North Dakota county and see a compilation of that county’s social indicators (e.g., Dunn county).  

Q: How did you choose the particular measures?

For these profiles, we wanted to use indicators that were not only telling of major trends, but also were collected for the bulk of the locations in a set geography type. We also wanted to make sure we didn’t include so many data points that it became cluttered.

Some locations do list more indicators, because there is more information available. There is generally more information at the state or regional level rather than the city level. For instance, there’s more information available to us regarding the state of North Dakota than micropolitain area of Wahpeton. However, for the most part we tried to keep the profiles as constant as possible.

If there are data on our website that you think should be included in the Geographic Profiles, please feel free to contact us to let us know.

Q: How often will these data be updated?

At ND Compass, we are consistently updating data in order to provide the best and latest data available. We now have our Geographic Profiles set up to automatically update as we import new data. Even if the Geographic Profiles seem to be in a static period, chances are that we are updating other areas of the site. Therefore, be sure to regularly check the website to see new data, graphs, and figures.

A user’s perspective on how to utilize the Geographic Profiles

Website user, Gretchen Dobervich, the North Dakota director for the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota chapter, is responsible for oversight of the Alzheimer Association program staff in ND, leading the advocacy policy for the association’s public policy work, and is one of the administrators of a large contract that the association has with the Department of Human Services. Below Gretchen discusses her use of ND Compass and her thoughts on the new Geography Profiles.

Q: What was your first reaction when you looked at the Geographic Profiles?

I was really excited about the ability and ease to compare counties to each other and regions to each other and the ability to contrast geographies from a macro sample. I was thrilled at the variety of information that I could get in one look. When I opened up Geographic Profiles, I was expecting to find out how many people lived in that county and their age break down. However, I was surprised when I saw the additional pieces of data that are available in the profiles, such as voter turnout, and data associated with economy, health, housing, and workforce.  This variety of data available on Geographic Profiles all contribute in some ways to shaping program development, even though we might not think about it. 

Furthermore, when exploring Geographic Profiles, I also really liked that you can still access the the 12 topics across the top of the website, where I can dig deeper into topics, such as the topic of Aging, and find out about related resources if needed. What I also liked about the Geographic Profiles is that, in addition to information about people living in different geographies, I can quickly get statewide information on the broad topics as well.  The ability to see the state profile allows me to almost a get a quick “state of the state.”  I appreciate that the Geographic Profiles has both of those features.

Q: How could you use the Geography Profiles in your role at the Alzheimer’s Association?

With Alzheimer’s disease being a major public health crisis, more and more emphasis is being placed on the outcomes related to our work. The Alzheimer’s Association has a long history of measuring the work that we do.  As funders, projects, and agencies that we collaborate with start to require measurements, it is nice to be able to be ahead of that game and have measurement policies and procedures in place already. Measurement data is one of the big areas where ND Compass is and has been helpful.

Today many funders are looking at different types of diversity (e.g., economic, racial) and ND Compass has some nice features for that as well.  Upon looking at the Geographic Profiles, I really like the Native American Reservation area profiles. The Alzheimer’s Association works on the reservations in North Dakota and through Compass and the Geographic Profiles is able to have access to quality statistics. For example, in terms of number of service, Region III, is always a little bit behind where the rest of the state is, but using the data available in the Native American Reservations Profiles and throughout ND Compass gives us a good perspective on the numbers associated with the age group that is really our primary constituents (i.e., older adults and caregivers). Using this same type of data is also helpful when we take a look at developing programming and providing services on the reservations to be able to take a look at what health care services are available in those regions.

Q: What geography breakdown did you find most useful for yourself?

I went to the county profiles first. I find myself using the counties more in terms of program development and determining where population centers are. The state profile was helpful in strategic planning. We are currently going through a strategic planning process and there was quite an amount of statistical information that I had to compile for the process and I found the vast majority of it on ND Compass.

Q: What are some other ways other organizations may find Geographic Profiles useful?

I was thinking other organizations may find Geographic Profiles useful when staffing programs. One of the challenges that we face is that we place our staff in regional offices so that they are serving large geographic areas. They are also placed in locations based in geographic centers that make the most sense and especially in Regions I, II,III  and VIII that makes a big difference. You want to be a good steward of the resources that you have available, therefore where you place your staff and offer the services is important. 

 Q: What are some of the other ways that you use ND Compass for in your role at the Alzheimer’s Association?

One of the ways I have used ND Compass in the past was by looking at the age breakdowns. For instance, we know that as we age, our chances at developing Alzheimer’s disease are much greater, and that about half of the people with the disease are not getting diagnosed. Being able to determine approximately how many people in ND, in each region, and in each county have the disease based on statistical data is very important.  And to find those statistics, such as those people 65 years old and older and 85 years old and older, I go into ND Compass instead of trying to decipher the US Census Report, because ND Compass is much more user friendly.

ND Compass has also been very helpful is determining needs for programs. For instance, by being able to determine an area’s aging population, I am able to figure out how many people statistically have Alzheimer’s disease, and therefore how many people we have to reach and what resources we may need in that area. Likewise, ND Compass has been very valuable for program planning and budgeting and developing goals. When we measure where we are at as an organization, we compare to the available statistics and can utilize ND Compass for that a lot of times as well.

Another feature that I have really appreciated ND Compass for is that it has very credible data, so when I am creating programming, when I am listing my resources, in the research we are working on, talks that we are giving, it’s a credible source. That is very helpful to have NDSU name behind the ND Compass. This was another way that has been very helpful.

As a multi-state chapter, MN and ND, the majority of our executives are in MN. These executives are not as familiar with ND. However, having an easy to use website, such as ND Compass, to be able to refer them to and that has solid statistical data provides them with a picture of what it’ s like in ND. ND Compass has been very helpful in that sense as well.

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