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Expanding a Population Health Tool That Provides City-Level Data

June 27, 2017
by David Raths
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City Health Dashboard visualization tool to include hundreds of U.S. cities

A February 2017 Healthcare Informatics story described a new data visualization tool that helps city officials understand the health status of their populations. That tool, the City Health Dashboard, will expand from four pilot cities to hundreds of cities nationwide.

The New York University School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health created the City Health Dashboard to help cities understand, compare and take action to improve health status and health risks in their municipalities.

Developed with NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, in partnership with the National Resource Network, the Dashboard includes 26 measures related to health across five domains: Health Outcomes, Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, Social and Economic Factors, and the Physical Environment.

The initial version of the dashboard includes data for four cities: Flint, Mich.; Kansas City, Kan.; Providence, R.I.; and Waco, Texas. The dashboard will expand to 500 additional cities over the next two years through a $3.4 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—with the ultimate goal of becoming a central health improvement planning resource for U.S. cities with populations of 70,000 or more, or one-third of the U.S. population. 

Users of the City Health Dashboard have the ability to view their city's performance in 26 key measures of health, like obesity and primary care physician coverage; and drivers of health status, such as housing affordability, high school graduation rate, food access, and opioid deaths. For many of the measures, data can be accessed at the neighborhood level. Data presented by the City Health Dashboard are drawn from federal and state governments and other organizations that apply rigorous methodology to data collection, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

In an interview for a recent Government Technology article, Marc Gourevitch, chair of the Department of Population Health at the NYU School of Medicine and principal investigator for the City Health Dashboard, told me that the dashboard puts into a framework data that hasn’t been visible to city-level managers before.

“Many of these data elements are available at the county level, but city managers are responsible for making policies that influence the people who live in their boundaries,” he explained. If a city is in the far southwest corner of a county that is four times as big as the city, the obesity rate data for the county is not that helpful, he said, and collecting that kind of data can be very expensive and time consuming. “The goal was to take data sets that power county-level data and code it to the city level.”

In the Government Technology interview, Gourevitch also said that in speaking with city managers and mayors over the last year, he was struck by how much demand there is for such a tool. “There is real hunger for data at the city level that is standardized. This allows them to compare where they are with similar cities. If we scale this to hundreds of cities, which is our goal, it will be possible to compare health measures with those in a like city, and get a sense for how they are doing.”




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