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An Open Source Project To Improve The Accuracy Of Mortality Data

Want to use your design and coding skills to help detect new disease trends, uncover their causes, and determine what can be done to prevent future losses?

Death certificates contain data that can help save lives. From a public health perspective, the cause-of-death data entered on death certificates are one of the best available sources to gain knowledge about health at the population level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health agencies use this data to track progress toward important health goals and answer complex questions such as: Which diseases are on the rise? What are their underlying causes? How can they be prevented? Who is at risk? Which interventions worked, and what disparities exist?

After someone dies, a physician pieces together the decedent’s medical history and circumstances around the death to determine an immediate cause, underlying factors, and other significant conditions that contributed. If there are reasons to suspect unnatural causes, a medical examiner or coroner meticulously combs through the forensic evidence to complete the death certificate. The information captured on the death certificate represents a medical opinion of the sequence or process that occurred. Often, several acceptable ways of writing a cause-of-death statement exist. Accuracy of cause-of-death reporting is an ongoing challenge.

As part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, which will take place world-wide on Saturday, June 6th, CDC would like to launch an open-source project to develop a Cause-of-Death companion application that will a) help guide medical certifiers through the process of filling out a death certificate and b) provide real-time feedback for common mistakes at the point of data entry.

Participants can contribute ideas to help design the user experience for the applications, create mock-ups for the user interface, and contribute code for an initial prototype. You don’t need to be a subject matter expert to contribute. We’re looking for a can-do attitude, stellar designing and coding skills, and desire to make a difference.

CDC has created a web service, called Views, which helps medical certifiers provide more complete and accurate data by validating cause-of-death data that is entered electronically. The cause-of-death companion application will provide a front-end to this service and make it available to a much wider audience. This will help reduce the workload caused when inaccurate records are identified late in the process. It may also help improve the timeliness of mortality reporting, which will allow CDC to identify emerging virulent diseases, predict where they are likely to spread next, and take steps to control their progress.

The Atlanta National Day of Civic Hacking event kicks off at 9:00 AM and ends at 6:00 PM at ThoughtWorks, which is located in Colony Square in Midtown (1175 Peachtree Street NE Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA). The nearest MARTA station is Arts Center. Whether you intend to participate as a coder, designer, or subject matter expert, please register using this link: https://nvite.com/hackforchange/d25d