Assessing Community Health Through Data on the Web - How Well Does It Work?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) subcontracted with two independent researchers to produce a report titled Issues in Evaluating Health Department Web-based Data Query Systems: Working Papers. A health department Web-based data query system offers users access to population health data at the state and local levels, typically including data on mortality, disease surveillance and maternal and child health.

Key Findings

  • According to the report:

    • A survey of all 27 state health departments with operating Web-based data query systems found that 19 had formally or informally assessed user or agency needs prior to developing their systems while 24 had done so during or after their development. Only three states (California, New Hampshire and Rhode Island) had a budget specifically for evaluation.
    • Despite a need for evaluation to keep pace with the development and implementation of Web-based data query systems, most states do not devote adequate resources to this task. States that did conduct evaluations found the process useful for improving their efforts, according to the researchers.
    • In order to invest sensibly in the development and refinement of Web-based data query systems, health departments must clarify their purpose, identify their users and place the system within the context of an overall health department information strategy.