New Initiative Seeks to Harness Data to Improve Community Health

A new initiative from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will explore how health information and data can be used to improve health in the community.

A new initiative from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) will explore how health information and data can be used to improve health in the community. The Data for Health initiative will be led by a committee co-chaired by David Ross, ScD, director of the Public Health Informatics Institute, and Ivor Horn, MD, MPH, medical director of the Center for Diversity and Healthy Equity at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

According to the overview brief for the initiative, although people are sharing more information about themselves, the industry is still unable to harness it in meaningful ways.

“The sheer volume and velocity of data at our fingertips today is unprecedented,” RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, said in a statement. “As we build a Culture of Health—a nation where everyone has the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives—it will be critical to ensure communities can effectively use and manage this information in ways that help people get healthy and stay healthy.”

The advisory committee will host a series of events in 5 cities to learn what information is important to local leaders, residents, and professionals from a range of sectors, and how that information can help people lead healthier lives. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology will participate in each session.

“We look forward to hearing and learning from communities about their vision of how health information technology beyond electronic health records can advance the public’s health beyond healthcare,” Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, said in a statement. “We appreciate RWJF supporting this conversation and look forward to the findings as it will help shape meaningful health information technology policy for our nation.”

The cities include Philadelphia, Phoenix, Des Moines, San Francisco, and Charleston. In early 2015, the committee will issue a report and recommendations. Some of the critical issues that will be addressed include how data should be collected, shared, used, and protected.

“Finding out what problems people want to solve and what health information they need to help solve these problems will help us better understand how to design the infrastructure for collecting, sharing, and protecting data in ways that work best for communities across the country,” Ross said.