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Social Determinants of Health Dashboard Expands to 500 Cities

An interactive online dashboard will help providers and public health officials in 500 cities identify areas of need around the social determinants of health.

Social determinants of health

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- The City Health Dashboard, an online resource offering interactive insights into clinical data and social determinants of health, now covers 500 cities across the United States. 

The publicly available tool, developed by the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and in partnership with NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, allows users to explore 36 measures of health down to the neighborhood level.

The majority of the data centers on the social determinants of health, including community factors such as housing affordability, lead exposure risks, racial and ethnic segregation of neighborhoods, and income inequality. 

Users can also examine educational attainment and school quality statistics, opioid overdose and death rates, and violent crime rates in addition to more traditional clinical information such as rates of obesity, diabetes, or hypertension.   

"With the City Health Dashboard, cities across the country can leverage the power of data to improve people's lives and strengthen communities," said Marc Gourevitch, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and the program's principal architect.

READ MORE: What Are the Social Determinants of Population Health?

"There's a saying: 'what gets measured is what gets done.' Only with local data can community leaders understand where actionable gaps in opportunity exist and target programs and policy changes to address them."

This type of information is becoming critical for managing patients in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.

Potential lead exposure in Boston area housing
Potential lead exposure in Boston area housing

Source: City Health Dashboard

Many healthcare organizations taking on financial risk for patients under value-based care arrangements do not have easy access to data about the community and lifestyle barriers that may prevent individuals from accessing care, filling prescriptions, or adhering to chronic disease management programs.

As stakeholders start to recognize the importance of being able to access data around patient challenges that fall outside of the encounter-based model of care, more and more resources are connecting providers with key information from the community.

CMS currently offers a number of datasets related to racial and ethnic disparities in care, including interactive maps that chart Medicare disparities in chronic disease rates, costs, and care utilization.

READ MORE: Humana Pins Social Determinants of Health to Better Quality of Life

DataUSA, an online public health dashboard created by Deloitte and the MIT MediaLab, allows users to dive into more than 100 different categories of data, including detailed economic statistics, health insurance coverage patterns, and hospital usage.

And at Atrium Health in North Carolina, the Community Resource Hub takes the next step by helping providers to connect patients nationwide with the social or economic services they need to overcome barriers such as food and housing insecurity or access to transportation.

Making these datasets available to healthcare providers, community planners, and public health officials is the first step towards designing and implementing interventions to meet the holistic needs of vulnerable populations.

“We are aiming to give community stakeholders a feeling that they understand their regions and have control over making positive changes instead of feeling discouraged because they don’t know where to start or can’t quantify the challenging they are facing,” Gourevitch told HealthITAnalytics.com in 2017.

“They should be able to set some priorities once the areas of greatest need have been identified.  Community planners need to know where to get the most bang for their buck, because they are often operating under financial constraints that require them to be very judicious about how they allocate their resources.”

READ MORE: PCPs Lack Time, Tools to Address Social Determinants of Health

The City Health Dashboard helps to illuminate just how difficult it can be for public health officials and other healthcare leaders to achieve these goals without detailed, localized data.

Behaviors like the rate of tobacco use can vary widely across different regions, the data indicates.  In the 50 cities with the lowest rates of smoking, less as 12 percent of the adult population uses tobacco.  However, 25 percent or more of residents in the 50 cities at the other end of the spectrum regularly smoke.

Economic disparities are similarly stark.  In the wealthiest cities in the nation, only 3 percent of children live in poverty.  But greater than 60 percent of children live below the poverty line in the most economically challenged regions, leaving them exposed to greater risks of educational gaps, hunger and housing instability, and the inability to access care.

The City Health Dashboard also includes resources for healthcare stakeholders looking to address issues they have identified in their own communities.  Available documents cover topics including expanding access to dental health, reducing binge drinking, improving access to parks and physical activities, and connecting children with educational support.

"We all have a role to play in improving well-being in our communities and ensuring that everyone has the same opportunities to be healthy, no matter where they live," said Abbey Cofsky, MPH, RWJF Managing Director, Program.

"With city and neighborhood-specific data, community leaders, city officials, and advocates now have a clearer picture of the biggest local challenges they face, and are better positioned to drive change."

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