For the past three years, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has been liberating vast amounts of data for public use, which can be found here on HealthData.gov. Our theory is that if we take the vast stores of data HHS already has, stripped out the personal information and made it available to developers, the data would then be used to create incredible tools; and that’s exactly what’s happened. Since focusing on liberating data, more than 200 applications have been developed with the use public health data.
To illustrate the true power of liberated data, periodically, organizations and individuals that have taken open health data and made it useful to communities, consumers and providers will be featured on HealthData.gov. First in a series of applications to be featured on HealthData.gov is the Healthy Communities Network, which won “Best Community Health App” at this year’s Health Datapalooza.
The Healthy Communities Institute, which developed the Healthy Communities Network (HCN), creates local dashboards for stakeholders at city, county and regional levels. The Health Communities Network is used in 35 states around the country and uses 40 different data sources, including HHS’s Health Indicators Warehouse. Since developing the Healthy Communities Network, communities have been using the application to effect health at the local level, like Healthy Matters in San Francisco.
Health Matters, an initiative of the Building a Healthier San Francisco Coalition, in San Francisco, CA has used HCN as a collaboration tool and source of accurate information for health and quality of life data in San Francisco. The San Francisco Community Benefit Partnership and the Building a Healthier San Francisco Coalition used HCN to work with more than 600 stakeholders and content experts to establish a set of priority health goals and 34 associated indicators, and create a local progress tracker to help continuously monitor progress against those goals over time.
From this work, hospitals, foundations, health and human service providers and community-based organizations are now all using the Health Matters in San Francisco HCN website to help meet federal and California community health needs assessment requirements as well as develop a public health master plan.
This is one of the many examples of how data is being leveraged to help improve our nation’s health through the connection between liberation of data and the development of applications by entrepreneurs and developers.