Researchers at New York University Grossman School of Medicine say their new Congressional District Health Dashboard reveals stark geographic, racial and ethnic differences in health across the United States. They hope lawmakers and healthcare organizations can use the tool to better understand and address health inequities.
WHY IT MATTERS
Incorporating health measures, such as deaths from cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, along with conditions that affect health, like housing affordability and access to nutritious foods, has not been available at the congressional district level.
Offering a single publicly-accessible location, the Congressional District Health Dashboard was built to offer a comprehensive data view of persistent inequities across the country, according to Dr. Giridhar Mallya, senior policy officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a partner on the project.
He said in the announcement that by using the tool, policymakers and others can drill down on data by district, compare rates to state and national averages and view snapshots by district.
For example, the first-of-its-kind dashboard reveals that Hispanic residents have the highest uninsurance rates in most congressional districts across the country.
The tool also showed that those living in the 11 states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act are twice as likely to be uninsured compared to those living where state governments expanded Medicaid coverage.
Further, the dashboard reveals that residents of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas on average are almost 3.5 times more likely to be uninsured than those in New England districts.
“This dashboard could be a game-changer for health policy in the United States,” said Mallya.
The website displays interactive maps, tables and charts and is powered by Federal data sources, including those managed by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as other data sets.
“The Congressional District Health Dashboard will help fill a critical need for timely, rigorous and actionable data that can inform evidence-based policymaking,” Dr. Marc Gourevitch, chair of the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health, added.
The data engine will continue to be overseen and updated by a team of population health and policy experts, epidemiologists and geospatial specialists, the partners say.
THE LARGER TREND
In 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adopted a strategic approach to addressing social determinants of health to advance health equity.
The three key goals include developing interoperable infrastructure to support coordination and policymaking; improving access and supporting community partnerships that address social needs and whole-government approaches that leverage private resources and community organizations.
In development are standards for data classes and elements for health information exchanges that capture information about conditions, like food, housing and transportation access, that put a person’s health and well-being at risk.
A peer-to-peer learning forum launched by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and HL7 this past October is testing the use of FHIR standards to exchange information about SDOH in primary care.
Efforts – including collecting systematic data on social needs and demographics across sectors and analyzing trends – is important for multiple collaborators to move the needle on health disparities, Daniel Brillman, founder and CEO of Unite Us, told Healthcare IT News in December.
“The causes of health disparities are multifaceted, and achieving improved equity will require an even broader approach that is inclusive of environmental, social, political and economic determinants as well,” he said in a Q&A on addressing SDOH and interoperability in 2023.
Brillman and Melissa Sherry, vice president of social care integration for Unite Us, shared that they believed that when it comes to tackling health equity, healthcare is set up to head in a positive direction this year.
“We’ll see an increase in the adoption of technology that can not only identify SDOH needs, but can predict, analyze and report on its impact,” said Sherry.
ON THE RECORD
“The Congressional District Health Dashboard will help fill a critical need for timely, rigorous and actionable data that can inform evidence-based policymaking,” said Gourevitch in the statement.
“Now, policymakers, advocates and others can drill down to their specific congressional districts to identify the opportunities and challenges affecting the health and wellbeing of all the people they serve, regardless of income, race or zip code.”
Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.
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