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Assessment Tutorials, Map Room Tutorials, FAQs


SparkMap is an online mapping and reporting platform powered by the Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES) at the University of Missouri. SparkMap provides two free tools – a Map Room and a community health needs assessment (CHNA) Report. SparkMap also provides subscription services. Subscribers receive access to additional report indicators, advanced mapping features, advanced query functions, custom geography tools, and data upload/integration. 

We recommend you cite the original source and then include the date accessed and URL to SparkMap. SparkMap notes the original source of each indicator and map layer on the site. In the Map Room, click the “Data Info” button to access data background information and a link to the original source. In the Report, look under the primary indicator’s data table to find a name, date, and source information. Once you’ve cited the original source, you can note the date and URL from SparkMap. We have included two examples below.  

U.S. Census Bureau (2021). American Community Survey (2015-19) [Data set]. Courtesy of SparkMap, retrieved April 1, 2022,


If you are including a reference as a note under a map or report image, we recommend the following citation style.

. SparkMap (2022). Date Retrieved, Website URL

Data are updated as often as they become available. For example, the American Community Survey (ACS) releases five-year estimates every year, so we update ACS indicators once per year. Unemployment indicators are published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so we update unemployment monthly. Every indicator has a corresponding release cycle and we try to ensure that all Report indicators are the most recent available. If you find an indicator that you believe is out of date, please contact us at

Data are only as reliable as the source! SparkMap acquires and analyzes data from more than 90 secondary sources. Secondary sources are typically very reliable and are supported by unbiased government agencies. For example, a large portion of our data comes to us from the United States Census. Other sources include agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance Survey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Geological Survey.

SparkMap has a “Data News” section that provides data updates, alerts about new data, data corrections and more. Click here to check out the Data News.

SparkMap is used by a variety of professionals. Most common uses include: community health needs assessments (CHNAs) for public health departments, health-focused nonprofit organizations, hospital systems, and health centers. SparkMap is also used by community and economic development professionals, faculty and students, real estate brokers, farmers, professional associations, food banks, and so many more. Check out our Solutions page to learn more.

On the internet, of course! SparkMap is a service of the Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES) at the University of Missouri. CARES is part of the University of Missouri Extension service and has offices located on campus in Columbia, Missouri. No matter where you live, though, we are happy to meet you remotely – we will even say hi to your dog or cat! 

The team at SparkMap are constantly working to ensure you have access to the most recent data through our mapping and reporting tools. Data saved in interactive reports are automatically updated to the most recent time period available when an update occurs. To ensure you have access to your original data, we recommend saving a copy of your report in PDF format. To see a list of dataset updates and revisions, check out the Data News page.

Do you spend a lot of time looking for data from the Census, American Fact Finder, or other secondary data sources? Would you benefit from having access to robust reports and customizable maps to inform business strategy, storytelling, case-making, or research? If you said yes, then SparkMap is for you! SparkMap tools are flexible and can be used to complete assessments, determine strategies, and implement solutions across a variety of sectors. SparkMap gives you quick access to reliable, up-to-date, and relevant data, anytime you need it. 

Either creating a free login or purchasing a subscription you have the access to savingThere will be a new section in the top right of both the Map Room and Community Assessment that says “Save”. This will then save what you have created in the user dashboard under “My Projects” or “My Data”.  

You’ll get access to the Map Room to explore more than 25,000 mappable data layers. You’ll also be able to create a Community Assessment for a single county using the core selected indicators. By creating a free account you will also be able to save an unlimited number of maps and reports. 

Pro subscriptions are focused on providing customization options in the SparkMap Map Room. With a Pro subscription you can add your own data to a map, access advanced mapping tools, and customize the map colors and symbols. Premium subscriptions are focused on providing customization options in the SparkMap Report while also providing access to the advanced Map Room features. Premium subscriptions provide exclusive indicators AND custom geographies. 

Yes! Please visit to learn more about our Hubs – the CARES version of an organizational/multi-user platform for storing and sharing data, maps, and reports. 

If you need more functionality for a larger team please contact us directly. We also create organization level sites that can be specifically tailored to your needs.  

To access the ability to add more counties, we recommend our Intro SparkMap subscription. It provides you with 80 core CHNA indicators and the ability to select as many counties as you’d like for your report.

If you would like access to additional areas and additional indicators, we recommend the Pro and Premium subscriptions.

To see what indicators are available at each level, please view our data list:

Still can’t find what you need? Contact us through our contact form or via email: