Everyone wants healthy communities – but often the challenge for city leaders is pinpointing risk factors so appropriate action can be taken. Experts say most health-related data in the U.S. isn't available at the city level. But a new tool being piloted in four U.S. cities was designed to change that. It's worth watching; developers say it may be expanded to other cities in the future. -- Philip Bane
"We created the City Health Dashboard in response to local demand for more accurate data about the health of our cities' citizens," says Marc Gourevitch, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Population Health and principal investigator for the City Health Dashboard. "City leaders know that 'what gets measured is what gets done.' They want accurate, actionable data so they can improve their population's health, bring down health care-related costs, and focus on community well-being. We're excited to be the first to provide this important information at the city level in a uniform format across a wide range of health conditions and health determinants."
The Department of Population Health is part of the New York University School of Medicine which, along with NYU's Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, the National Resource Network and support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, launched the dashboard. They say it is the first-ever online data tool that allows city leaders to examine the health of their urban populations and take action.
The tool, its creators believe, will greatly improve city-level understanding of health and empower mayors, city managers, health officials and other local stakeholders to enact policies that target the risk factors and health conditions that most impact their communities.
The web tool presents 26 measures related to health across five areas:
- Health outcomes
- Health behaviors
- Clinical care
- Social and economic factors
- Physical environment
What city leaders are saying
Flint, Michigan; Kansas City, Kansas; Providence, Rhode Island and Waco, Texas were selected to participate in the pilot through a competitive application process among cities involved in the National Resource Network, which is a Housing and Urban Development-funded program that leverages expertise from the public and private sectors to help cities address their most pressing challenges.
Leaders in those cities seem enthusiastic about the tool and how it paints a clear and accurate picture of priority areas they can target with improvement efforts.
"I have been trying for a long time to get a better handle on the role of the healthcare sector and the potential for broader impact from the resources in that system," said Waco City Manager Dale Fisseler. "Already I can see that policy alternatives are illuminated by the dashboard, including relationships between spending by hospitals and by our city and county governments and inequities we need to tackle, which we long suspected but just didn't have any data on before."
Adds Mayor Mark Holland of Kansas City: "As the mayor of a city whose residents face numerous health challenges, it is essential that we have access to data that gives us a better understanding of what those challenges are. Just as important, we need to know where in our city those challenges exist."
The dashboard presents all measures at the city level and, where possible, by neighborhood, based on census tract and by demographic group. It also displays national averages, so that cities can compare their data on select metrics to national values. Users can explore the data through easily navigable maps and tables to better understand health disparities within and across their cities.
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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.
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