May 28, 2010, 10:27 AM, Posted by Steve Downs
Next Wednesday at the IOM, HHS will do a big unveiling of its Community Health Data Initiative. It will be a pretty big deal – HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, White House CTO Aneesh Chopra and HHS CTO Todd Park will all be on hand and the expectation is that major tech companies will unveil prototype apps built off of some of the data sets that HHS will be making public.
The HHS/IOM event will be web cast, so check it out. Either of these links should work:
It’s an interesting headline when you step back and think about it. HHS is making a major announcement – not about a new research breakthrough, a new vaccine, a new Medicare benefit or even a new grant opportunity. It’s about **drumroll** … **drumroll** ... data! Seriously. 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.
At RWJF, we’ve had a hand in one of the first major apps – the County Heath Rankings – which plots community health characteristics – for every county in America. Go to the site and you can find both health outcome data, like premature death, and the social, behavioral and environmental factors that lead to those outcomes, like obesity, unemployment and air pollution. And you can see how each county ranks on any of those factors compared to other counties in your state. And the County Health Rankings data has even spawned an irreverent take on the data – the County Sin Rankings – winner of the Sunlight Labs Design for America contest for visualizing health data. Check out the other contestants, who all offered imaginative ways to present health data to the public. The point is that the government is not best suited to come up with creative ways to help people understand the health of their communities or the quality of the medical care they receive. But creative designers, developers and activists, when given access to the data, can do it much better. Once there’s a good platform, we always get happily surprised by the apps.
I’d love to hear what people think are the most exciting apps that get announced on Wednesday. And while you’re at it, can you think of a more exciting name than “Community Heath Data Initiative?”