Researchers at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine say their new Congressional Health Dashboard reveals clear geographic, racial and ethnic disparities in health in the United States. They hope lawmakers and health organizations can use the tool to better understand and address health disparities.
WHY IT MATTER
The inclusion of health measures, such as deaths from cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, along with conditions that affect health, such as housing affordability and access to nutritious food, was not available at the congressional district level.
Offering one universally accessible location, the Congressional Health Care Dashboard is designed to offer a comprehensive view of data on persistent disparities across the country, according to Dr. Giridhar Mallya, senior policy officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a project partner.
He said in the release that using the tool, policymakers and others can analyze data by district, compare rates to state and national averages and view snapshots by district.
For example, the first-ever dashboard reveals that Hispanic residents have the highest uninsured rates in most congressional districts across the country.
The tool also showed that people living in the 11 states that did not expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act were twice as likely to be uninsured as those living where state governments did expand Medicaid coverage.
Additionally, the dashboard reveals that residents of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas are, on average, nearly 3.5 times more likely to be uninsured than those in New England areas.
“This dashboard could be a game-changer for health policy in the United States,” Mallya said.
The website displays interactive maps, tables and charts and is powered by federal data sources, including those managed by the US Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as other sets of data.
“The Congressional District Health Dashboard will help fill a critical need for timely, rigorous, and actionable data that can inform evidence-based policymaking,” added Dr. Mark Gurevich, Chair of the Department of population health at NYU Langone Health.
The data engine will continue to be monitored and updated by a team of population health and policy experts, epidemiologists and geospatial specialists, the partners say.
THE BIGGER TREND
In 2022, the US Department of Health and Human Services adopted a strategic approach to address the social determinants of health to improve health equity.
The three key objectives include developing an interoperable infrastructure to support coordination and policy development; improving access and supporting community partnerships that address social needs and whole-of-government approaches that leverage private resources and community organizations.
Standards are being developed for data classes and health information exchange elements that capture information about conditions, such as food, housing, and access to transportation, that put a person’s health and well-being at risk.
A mutual learning forum launched by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and HL7 in October last year tested the use of FHIR standards to exchange information about SDOH in primary care.
The effort — including collecting systematic data on social needs and demographics across sectors and analyzing trends — is important for multiple contributors to move the needle on health care disparities, said Daniel Brillman, founder and CEO of Unite Us Healthcare IT News in December.
“The causes of health inequities are multifaceted and achieving improved equity will require an even broader approach that also includes environmental, social, political and economic determinants,” 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 believe that when it comes to addressing health equity, health care is set to move in a positive direction this year.
“We will see an increase in the adoption of technology that can not only identify SDOH needs, but can predict, analyze and report on their impact,” Sherry said.
“The Congressional District Health Dashboard will help fill a critical need for timely, rigorous and actionable data that can inform evidence-based policymaking,” Gurevich said in the statement.
“Now policymakers, advocates and others can venture into their specific congressional districts to identify opportunities and challenges affecting the health and well-being 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 publication of HIMSS.