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Community Data Health Initiative

Institute of Medicine
June 2, 2010

Thanks, Dr. Fineberg, Judy Salerno and the Institute of Medicine for being such gracious hosts.

We’re joined today by folks from community organizations, the White House, academia, public health, state and local government, business and the technology industry. Whether you’re here in this room or online, I want to thank you all for making the time to attend.

The Community Health Data Initiative that we’re launching today was inspired by a simple belief—that people in communities can improve the quality of their health care and public health when they have the information to do it.

To make that happen, we’re combining two important Obama Administration goals.

The first goal is to change the culture of government, so it’s more open, accountable, and accessible to the American people.

Here’s what we think this means:

First, open government is transparent. That means we share what we know with the American people. We don’t hide data away in databases or let it collect dust on archive shelves.

Second, it’s participatory. When you have a transparent government, people are more likely to contribute ideas and expertise. We think that makes for not just a more accountable government, but also a more dynamic government.

And third, open government allows for collaboration that makes government more effective. When you can harness energy and expertise from both inside and outside government and get different sectors working together, we believe you’re much more likely to achieve your objectives.

For us, open government is not just “open” to other government officials or the experts. Its resources are there for every American who wants to engage.

The second goal at the heart of our Community Health Data Initiative is building a health care system that meets the needs of every American.

Over the last sixteen months, we’ve made significant progress towards achieving that goal.

We’ve shored up the health care safety net for families during the recession, by passing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act and covering 2.6 million previously uninsured kids.

We’ve made long-term and long overdue investments in health information technology, prevention, and the health workforce as part of the Recovery Act.

And we enacted landmark health insurance reform, which will help 32 million Americans get affordable health insurance, give Americans who have insurance more security and stability, and begin the transformation of our health care delivery system to improve health outcomes and bring down costs.

Most of all, it will give Americans and their doctors more control of their health care. And here’s where health reform and open government meet.

Moving forward, most Americans will have options for their health care. What they’re going to need is better information to help them choose between those options.

HHS has such data. As a prime example, we have national, state, regional, and county-level data on everything from smoking rates to obesity rates to access to healthy food to utilization of medical services. We have hospital-level information on measures of quality performance and patient satisfaction.

All of this information comes from the Office of Public Health and Science, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and other divisions of HHS.

Think about what could happen if the public could easily access and utilize this data.

A patient with heart disease could go online and choose the local hospital where rates of health care-associated infections are dropping…not the hospital down the street from his house where the rates of infection have been steady for years.

A woman with a family history of breast cancer could look at cancer rates in her area and discover a cancer cluster! If she and her neighbors organize and lobby their local officials, this data will give them a better chance of uncovering what might be an environmental hazard, and getting it removed.

A family looking for a great place to raise their kids will now be able look at community health data along with crime statistics and school test scores.

We believe that making this information free and user-friendly to consumers is common sense.

But to get full value out of our data, we’ll need ideas and expertise from across the country, from the public and private sectors, from communities and individuals.

So today, I want to challenge you. Tell us how we can take HHS’s community health data, leverage the investment taxpayers have made in information, and unleash it to help the American public and communities improve health. Then go out and create new tools and applications that will help make this possible.

I want to thank you all for being here, and now I’m going to turn the floor over to Deputy Secretary Bill Corr, who is actually the person who sparked the creation of this Community Health Data Initiative, and who will talk a little more about what to expect here today.