Taking a Prevention-Based Approach to Emergency Medical Services in Decatur, GA

Mar. 21, 2024|City Health Dashboard


The Fire Rescue team in Decatur, GA is committed to providing a high level of care for everyone in their community through emergency response and community services. More than half of the Department’s responses are for emergency medical services, or EMS. As the first healthcare practitioners on the scene, the Rescue Team has unique insight into the health challenges the Decatur community is facing and often can identify emerging issues as they begin to arise.

Historically, the Fire Department has used heat maps to illustrate the geographic distribution of their health response dispatches including cardiovascular arrests and diabetes emergencies. While this response data is valuable in identifying neighborhoods with the highest need and what those needs might be, it only allows for reactive care. The Fire Rescue team recognized an opportunity to focus on preventative efforts as a way to be more proactive in prioritizing community healthcare, and needed to better understand the underlying health conditions and upstream socioeconomic drivers of the acute emergencies that were being called in. To do this they would need access to local-level data on health and the determinants of health, key information that the city lacked. Without this, the Fire Rescue team sought a solution that would fill this gap – the City Health Dashboard.

The City Health Dashboard has given us an amazing opportunity to determine what might be the underlying causes of emergencies and target them with our prevention efforts. The metrics provided by the Dashboard allow us to focus in on these communities and determine exactly what factors need to be addressed to change outcomes for these high-frequency EMS response demographics.

Gary A. Menard, Fire Captain for Decatur’s Fire Rescue


The Decatur Fire Rescue team applied to the Put Us on the Map Challenge and gained access to data for nearly 30 metrics, including measures of local relevance. Using city and neighborhood-level data on Physical Inactivity, Neighborhood Racial/Ethnic Segregation, and Frequent Mental Distress, the Fire Rescue team has broadened their perspective on health and started to pinpoint the potential underlying factors of their emergency response calls.

The Fire Rescue team has used the Dashboard metric maps to complement their own heat maps to locate areas with higher need and poorer health outcomes, i.e. more EMS calls, and target their programmatic efforts. Now able to visualize the social drivers of health in the city’s neighborhoods alongside the EMS data, Decatur has begun shifting the perspective to healthcare prevention in order to more strategically address health emergencies and social service needs. The team has also found it helpful to explore tools and resources using the site’s Take Action section, and plan to communicate the insights they’ve found in the data in their upcoming grant proposals.

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