Route Fifty Special Report: The Health Data Equation

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Connecting state and local government leaders

We’re featuring three stories of state and local governments using data to deliver critical health services, make better decisions and improve their communities in the process.

The effective delivery of health services, like many of the other responsibilities state and local governments have, depends on strong data practices. The insights and discoveries that emerge from data and analytics are critical for agency leaders, frontline employees and other important stakeholders to make informed decisions while facing tough challenges.

It’s important when it comes to the public, too, especially for government professionals who need to explain the data and how they’re leveraging it to make important decisions.

In “The Health Data Equation,” a new special report from Route Fifty and Government Executive Media Group, we’re featuring three stories of state and local governments using data to deliver critical health services, make better decisions and improve their communities in the process.

In the special report:

OPIOID ABUSE: Staff Correspondent Quinn Libson examines Huntington, West Virginia, a city that’s been struggling with the the abuse of opiates, like heroin and painkillers. Huntington’s challenges with drug abuse are similar throughout Appalachia and elsewhere around the U.S. One of the big problems for public health and other agencies responding to the crisis: Lacking access to current data that can help governments make smarter decisions on how to better target their response.

Libson interviews Scott Lemley, a criminal intelligence analyst with Huntington’s police department: “When the delay is two years long, that’s worthless to us,” he said of access to timely data. “We get quarterly, sometimes monthly economic data, but when it comes to drug overdoses we have to wait two years. It’s about setting priorities. It’s absolutely insane.”

INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Senior Reporter Bill Lucia looks at 2016’s public health response to the Zika virus in Florida, which forced state and local agencies act quickly to assess the risk and figure out ways to contain it. In the Miami area and elsewhere, agencies had to set up Aedes aegypti surveillance networks to track the insects carrying the virus.

“That’s something we had to put together on the fly,” Paul Mauriello, deputy director of Miami-Dade Solid Waste Management, told Lucia. “There was a lot of work revolving around deploying of the traps and servicing the traps. And then getting that data back from the traps, getting basically the mosquitoes back, so that we could have a biologist classify them. We had some of that capability. But not like seven-day-a-week capability.”

As at-risk areas head into 2017’s mosquito season, Zika is poised to again test the response by federal, state and local public health agencies working to contain the virus.

TRANSPARENCY: News Editor Dave Nyczepir features an effort by Massachusetts Center for Health and Information Analysis to make it easier for consumers to understand health care costs, which may lead them to make better health care decisions. “[S]tate level leaders are recognizing transparency in health is really important,” a spokesman for the center told Nyczepir.

DOWNLOAD THE EBOOK: “The Health Data Equation”

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY: Young and Homeless in Ohio: Trying to Survive Without Much of a Safety Net

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