Friday, July 9, 2010

Using data to drive improvements in health outcomes

Earlier this year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) released the inaugural County Health Rankings.   This is the first time that the overall health of almost all the counties in the country have been ranked.   DC is included though the data is for the city as a whole. Some of the findings of the report are:
  • There were nine air pollution-particulate matter days in DC in 2005.   This means that the air quality was unhealthy for sensitive populations because of the amount of fine particulate matter in the air.
  • An average of 11.5% of babies born between 2000 and 2006 in DC were low birthweight meaning that these children weighed less than 5.5 lbs. at birth.
  • Twenty-three percent of adults over the age of 18 over the years 2005 to 2008 reported having the social and emotional support they need.   According to the report, "Poor family support, minimal contact with others, and limited involvement in community life are associated with increased morbidity and early mortality.   Furthermore social support networks have been identified as powerful predictors of health behaviors, suggesting that individuals without a strong social network are less likely to participate in healthy lifestyle choices."

RWJF and the university want more out of the report than data.   They want action to improve health outcomes.   Crowdsourcing was the answer.   Through August 6, Community Health Action Forum—an online discussion board—will be open for suggestions on ways communities can use the rankings to improve social, economic, environmental, and behavioral outcomes with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes.

While DC sources report on all the measures as that in the RWJF-University of Wisconsin report, the value of the effort is really in the idea generation and sharing.   So take a look, submit your idea, and vote for ones you like.

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