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News from the National Academies

Date: June 2, 2010
Contact: Christine Stencel, Senior Media Relations Officer
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

INITIATIVE HELPS TRANSFORM RAW HEALTH DATA INTO CREATIVE APPLICATIONS;
NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO IMPROVE HEALTH DEMONSTRATED AT HHS AND IOM FORUM 

WASHINGTON — Against a backdrop of new websites, online games, social media and mobile phone applications, and other innovative product demonstrations, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, at a public forum today launched the next phase of a new national initiative to turn health data into products that can improve people's health.

The Community Health Data Initiative (CHDI) is a public-private collaboration that brings together the creativity and cutting-edge resources of information technology (IT) developers with the enormous information resources of the government to develop new kinds of information products with the potential to change the way Americans get and use health data.  The initiative and the new applications it generates will make health information local and actionable.

Sebelius, Fineberg, and HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr were joined at the forum by IT pioneers from Google, Microsoft Bing, HealthWays, General Electric, and others who demonstrated more than 15 innovative applications built on publicly available health data.  Most of these applications were developed or refined in the three months since HHS and IOM hosted a meeting on March 11 to explore the feasibility of initiating this kind of data project.

"We are delighted to host this event highlighting the Community Health Data Initiative," Fineberg said.  "The goal is to make the gigabytes of health data our nation generates accessible and productive.  Information is the key to awareness about health and action to improve health.  The information technology sector has the creativity and skills to turn raw data into games, websites, and other applications that make information easily attainable and usable." 

"Our national health data constitute a precious resource that we are paying billions to assemble, but then too often wasting," Secretary Sebelius said.  "When information sits on the shelves of government offices, it is underperforming.  We need to bring this data alive.  If made easily accessible by the public, our data can help raise awareness of health status and trigger efforts to improve it.  The data can help our communities determine where action is most needed and what approaches might be most helpful.  As a nation, we can and should harness the exploding creativity in our information technology and media sectors to help us get the most public benefit out of our data investments."

The initiative does not endorse particular applications, but rather enables their independent development by giving developers easier access to expanded, free data.  A new data warehouse that consolidates federal health data in useful formats without intellectual property constraints will be online by the end of 2010, Sebelius announced.  Data will be broken down to county and community levels as much as possible to support local decision making and action.  Public groups and private firms can build new applications using this data; communities, professionals, and consumers can then choose the applications they find most useful. 

More information about the Community Health Data Initiative's ongoing efforts can be found online at www.hhs.gov/open

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[ This news release is available at http://national-academies.org ]