Leveraging Community Health Data

Want to see an interactive map on the web that easily compares the health of different communities? There's an app for that. How about an enhanced web search that integrates hospital performance data into hospital search results? There's an app for that. Tools for mobile phones that put new health information at consumers' fingertips? Yep.

Want to see an interactive map on the web that easily compares the health of different communities? There's an app for that. How about an enhanced web search that integrates hospital performance data into hospital search results? There's an app for that, too. Tools for mobile phones that put new health information at consumers' fingertips? Yep.

Or there will be now that the Health and Human Services Department and the Institute of Medicine have undertaken a mission to make public "a wealth of new community health data that will drive innovation and lead to the creation of new applications and tools to improve the health of Americans," according to an HHS news release that accompanied the unveiling this week of the new initiative.

The Community Health Data Initiative was announced at the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM).

"The goal is to make the gigabytes of health data our nation generates accessible and productive," said Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, in a news release. "The information technology sector has the creativity and skills to turn raw data into games, websites, and other applications that make information easily attainable and usable."

CHDI's developers patterned the initiative after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency makes public weather data that businesses use in a myriad of ways.

Says the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

The bet here is that the thousands (and I do mean thousands) of data sets that HHS maintains could actually support some useful applications - applications we can't even imagine yet - in the same vein that the weather data produced by the National Weather Service generates so many services and businesses. To some extent, these data have been available before, but they've been hard to get to. The difference here is that HHS is planning to make access to the data easy and beyond that, make them available in ways that most lend themselves to application development. It's a conscious strategy to enable others to add value to these government data.

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