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HealthData+ Obesity: From Data to Action

Want to learn more about the Obesity Data Challenge-winning app, HealthData+Obesity? Adnan Mahmud, founder and CEO of LiveStories and part of winning team, discusses the inspiration behind their app. Check out all the winning Obesity Data Challenge entries here.

The U.S. Obesity Data Challenge is part of a joint U.S.-England initiative designed to harness the power of health data in tackling the epidemic of adult obesity in both countries.


Local health officials are responsible for promoting the health of the populations they serve. However, they don’t always have access to the most effective tools for communicating about priority health issues. Obesity is one of the most critical health epidemics of our time, and health officers are working hard to address it right in the communities where they live. Yet they need more and better tools to describe the scale of the problem, meaningfully engage communities and families, and generate local support for policies and interventions that can make a difference.

That was our inspiration for HealthData+Obesity.

A number of online resources provide data describing the obesity problem, and others catalogue potential solutions. The amount of data can be overwhelming, and is not always presented in a clear and accessible way. We created HealthData+Obesity - a simple, curated dashboard that helps health officers tell a powerful story about the root causes of obesity – and what we can do about it. It’s a one-stop-shop where health officials can access a wide variety of relevant information regarding obesity - tailored to their county.

The HealthData+Obesity application combines a number of data sources to paint a more complete picture of the obesity epidemic on a local level. The data sources include Healthy People 2020 goals, the USDA Food Environment Atlas, The CDC Diabetes Interactive Atlas, and the data behind County Health Rankings. We even created an interactive map based on the USDA Farmers Market Directory where you can find information about nearby Farmers Markets including opening hours and whether they accept food stamps (SNAP).  More importantly, the map and the dashboard also shows which areas have less access to healthy and affordable food, a critical factor in creating healthier communities.

The HealthData+Obesity application is an example of how health departments can combine data sources with local knowledge and narratives to help drive decision-making and change. The Healthdata+ team is available to help officers and other stakeholders customize the obesity dashboard with local data, images, videos, quotes, on-the-ground strategies, or a “call to action”. To do this, users simply click on the “customize report” button at the bottom of the page, and the HealthData+ team will follow-up to provide support for local customization.

HealthData+ is a partnership between the Public Health Institute, with over fifty years of experience addressing health, and LiveStories, a technology company that makes it easy for anyone to visualize, discuss, and present data. In partnership with the California HealthCare Foundation, we are currently supporting health departments in California to build compelling data-driven stories around pressing health issues. We are honored and thrilled to have won the U.S. Obesity Challenge and are excited to support health departments across the country as they work to build health in their communities.

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Adnan Mahmud is the founder and CEO of LiveStories -  which powers modern government and nonprofits with user-friendly data tools. LiveStories is part of the HealthData+ partnership along with the Public Health Institute and the California Healthcare Foundation.

This is a crosspost from the Health Data Consortium.

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