April 17, 2017

The City Health Dashboard: Organizing Public Health Data

Although health information and demographic data is widely available , we still lack the tools to analyze, explore, and organize that data in a meaningful way. Such is why, earlier this year, the City Health Dashboard was launched. This remarkable resource is the first of its kind: the Dashboard standardizes and aggregates data on health by city, thereby helping city leaders and decision makers make better decisions about healthcare policy.

The Dashboard, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was made possible by NYU School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health, NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, and the National Resource Network.

Prior to the Dashboard, health data was previously only available at the county level. But the Dashboard not only standardizes this data but also specifies it by city and, if available, by neighborhood or demographic group. This creates a more precise image of health for a given population as most cities are only a fraction of their total county.

Upon entering the public website, the user can browse and download the health metrics of four cities: Flint, Michigan; Kansas City, Kansas; Providence, Rhode Island; and Waco, Texas. These four cities were chosen through their participation in the National Resource Network. Additionally, the Dashboard allows the user to explore 26 health metrics spanning across five main domains: Social and Economic Factors, Health Outcomes, Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, and Physical Environment.

Having taken a careful first step forward, the pilot project now has plans to grow even larger. Jessica Athens, an assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine and a member of the Dashboard project, explains that they hope to add 500 cities with populations of 70,000 and more represented in The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They are also hoping to create some additional features, such as the option to compare similar cities, and a technical assistant component to facilitate data access and training for data streams. By enabling city leaders to source the data and utilize the different streams for their health information collection, they hope to develop the “data analytics expertise to help them think like coders and programmers,” Athens said.

by Nayla Al-Mamlouk