The Department of Health and Human Services has launched an initiative to make federally generated community health data widely available to the public in easily accessible and useful formats.

"Our national health data constitute a precious resource that we are paying billions to assemble, but then too often wasting," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said while announcing the Community Health Data Initiative. "When information sits on the shelves of government offices, it is underperforming. We need to bring these data alive." Doing so can help communities determine best approaches to improving health status, she added.

Sebelius and Institute of Medicine President Harvey Fineberg, M.D., announced the initiative during IOM's Community Health Data Forum in Washington. HHS by year-end will implement a new Health Indicators Warehouse providing online access to HHS data on national, state, regional and county health performance. Data will include such indicators as rates of smoking, obesity, diabetes, access to healthy food and utilization of health care services.

The warehouse also will include best practices on improving performance for specific indicators. Users can access some or all of the data at no cost and integrate it into their own Web sites and applications. HHS and IOM hosted a meeting in March to explore the feasibility of such an initiative and several software developers at the June 2 forum demonstrated applications to make use of publicly available data.

More information is available at hhs.gov/open/datasets/communityhealthdata.html.

--Joseph Goedert

 

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