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What is SparkMap?

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. 

Why should I subscribe? 

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. 

How often is the data updated?

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 If you find an indicator that you believe is out of date, please contact us at

How reliable are the data?

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.

How can I find new data that’s been added?

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.

How are others using SparkMap?

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 use cases to learn more.

How can I cite the data?

We recommend you cite the original source. 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 – 

“Courtesy: SparkMap, <>, date_retrieved”


<map or report title>. SparkMap (2020). Date Retrieved, Website URL

Where is SparkMap located?

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 data in my saved report has changed! What happened? 

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.

Why should I create a login?  

Creating a login account allows you to save an unlimited number of maps and assessments. If you wanted to create your own set of topic specific maps with multiple layers you can now save them to your dashboard to come back and revisit anytime. 

How do I save maps and assessments?  

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”.  

I used to be able to make a report on multiple counties. Now I can only choose one. What happened?  

The multiple county selection is now available for all of our subscription packages. We have created a package specifically for folks just looking to make multiple county community health needs assessments. This cheaper option still gives you access to the data and some expanded tools. The Multi-County package starts at $49/90 days or $179/Year. Feel free to visit the pricing page for more information on each of the packages or schedule a demo with us.  

I have some datasets that I’d like to see visually on a map to present. How could I do that using SparkMap? 

Both the Pro and Premium subscription packages contain the “Data Upload” tool. This allows you to upload your own data directly that can be customized within the map. Symbology, colors, and legend information is completely editable as well. Feel free to reach out for support accessing this tool.  

How do I cancel my subscription? 

After your subscription is up it will automatically be renewed. If this is not desired please visit the “My subscription” page under your dashboard settings. There will be some prompts to follow to cancel your account. Feel free to contact us directly as well. 

Where can I sign up for a consultation/live demo? 

Email us at to set up a live demonstration and learn if SparkMap is right for you.  

What can I access for free on SparkMap? 

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. 

What is the main difference between Pro and Premium subscription? 

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. 

Do you support multiple licenses or for organizations? 

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.  

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