Health Geography Talk

By: Autumn Grzenia

On Wednesday, March 2nd, Coe’s Center for Health and Society held a Zoom meeting with Dr. David Haynes, a Coe Alum and assistant professor at the Institute for Health Informatics at the University of Minnesota. He received his Bachelors at Coe College, his Masters at St. Mary’s University, and his PhD. from the University of Iowa in health geography. 

His current research focuses on how unequal access to care creates health and cancer inequities for minority populations. Dr. Haynes does this by using computer mapping software to research how place affects health. His work uses spatial data to make maps that communicate this knowledge of health gaps to health researchers, practitioners, and broader communities.

Dr. Haynes sparked his interest in health geography by doing a summer research program here at Coe. He reached out to be part of this research program because he was skilled at data analysis and using computers. He also knew he wanted to be a doctor and to help people, but did not know which direction to go in. 

The research program specialized in Geographic information system (GIS), which is a software that enables users to edit, visualize and manipulate spatial data. Through this program, he was able to see how data was spread out in different geographical locations and how that data affected other aspects.  

In 2019, Dr. Haynes started working with Sage. Sage is a national breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer early detection program (NBCCEDP) for the state of Minnesota. Sage’s primary activities are: client recruitment, patient navigation, and paying for breast and cervical screening and diagnostic services. 

While at Sage, he has been able to help other doctors and practitioners see different spikes in breast cancer based on geographical location and then look deeper into what role environmental factors play in the development of cancer.

“One thing I am currently working on and very excited for is that within the healthcare system, you go to the doctor, they ask questions, and then you don’t see them until you have another issue,” said Dr. Haynes. “The healthcare system has a lot of things that affect it, such as poverty, diet, mental health, and stress. So, we are trying to collect a way to gather data and look for trends in these things to try and find ways to stop the huge spikes in people not feeling good before it blows out of control. Our biggest roadblock is time, technology, and then how to not be invasive of peoples’ privacy. We are hoping to make tremendous progress in the next five to ten years.”

You can read more about Dr. Haynes and his studies on the Sage page on the Minnesota Department of Health webiste at

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