New York is proud to be among a diverse group of public and private institutions that have come together to harness the power of health data to improve public health and health care delivery. In a time of limited resources, making data more widely available, open, and accessible will enable government to engage key stakeholders in the important work of advancing public health and health care.

Under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s leadership, the New York State Department of Health has launched an exciting website to make public for the first time critical data from every part of the healthcare system. Called the METRIX Project (Maximizing Essential Tools for Research Innovation and eXcellence), this initiative seeks to expand the use of New York State Health Department datasets by our partners and consumers to improve healthcare and public health.

The State Health Department collects and uses hundreds of datasets that touch upon the entire continuum of health. While some of these datasets are limited in scope and permissible use, others have many new potential applications. We believe these datasets represent a public good — and can be a valuable source of data for researchers, entrepreneurs, or community-based organizations to further their own public health projects or collaborate with the State Health Department. Collectively, the datasets represent an immense resource to help us all understand and change the environment in which illness occurs and wellness can be promoted.

We’re rolling out METRIX in phases. We began by releasing six datasets on the Department’s website (see http://health.ny.gov/METRIX):

  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System;
  • Cancer Mapping;
  • Healthy Neighborhoods Program;
  • New York Adult Tobacco Survey;
  • New York National Comparison Adult Tobacco Survey; and
  • Nursing Home Weekly Bed Census.

METRIX will be updated frequently as more datasets are added. The dataset catalog provides not only all the actual data but also complete documentation for its use: information on how the data are collected (including relevant survey tools), how the Department of Health uses the data, how frequently it will be updated, and some suggested uses. The NY Department of Health welcomes your input as you use the data, perhaps conducting analyses on the suggested topics offered with each dataset, or in other creative ways. For example, a research team could study public support for banning displays of tobacco products in retail stores using the New York Adult Tobacco Survey dataset. Researchers interested in studying obesity prevention in adults might use the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to explore the relationships between risk factors such as poor mental health, inadequate sleep, and other modifiable risk factors for chronic disease. A developer can create an iPhone or android app with weekly-updated census counts for nursing homes, tied in to other publically available datasets about nursing homes. All types of innovators can play an integral role in analyzing emerging public health issues and influencing the development of public health policies and programs. These efforts can drive positive behavior, systems change, and environmental changes in communities – leading to the improved population health, especially in populations and communities experiencing disparities in health. With the launch of METRIX, New York is taking a significant step toward engaging everyone interested in creating a high-quality, robust public health and health care system for the 21st century.

You can view METRIX on the New York State Department of Health’s website by visitinghttp://www.health.ny.gov/metrix

Dr. Shah is the New York State Commissioner of Health
You can follow him on Twitter.com/HealthNYGov, and on Facebook.com/NYSDOH

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