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Section III: Steps Taken to Increase Proactive Disclosures

The Department of Justice has long focused on the need for agencies to work proactively to post information online without waiting for individual requests to be received.

Please answer the following questions to describe the steps your agency has taken to increase the amount of material that is available on your agency websites.  In addition to the questions below, you should also describe any additional steps taken by your agency to make and improve proactive disclosures of information.

1. Provide examples of material that your agency has proactively disclosed during the past reporting year, including records that have been requested and released three or more times in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2)(D).  Please include links to these materials as well. 

HHS continues to employ a number of ways to identify records for online public disclosure.  HHS OpDivs use the established threshold of three requests for the same information to identify records of substantial public interest, either by reviewing FOIA logs, manually tracking FOIA requests or from identifying requests for the same records from an electronic tracking system.  In addition, information is gathered from program areas and offices about significant policy documents that may be candidates for proactive disclosure, and public affairs and communications staff provide input and suggestions for records they believe should be proactively disclosed to the public.

Please see the examples, listed below, of material that HHS has proactively disclosed during 2020 reporting period.

  • ACL monitors incoming requests and has not had any requests for the same record(s) three or more times.  The stakeholder community has expressed interest in performance data from ACL’s disability programs.  In response, ACL added new databases specific to disability programs to the data portal (https://agid.acl.gov/).
  • The CMS has proactively disclosed the following information:
  • FDA has proactively disclosed the following information:
  • FAERs public dashboard, an interactive web-based tool that allows for the querying of FAERS data in a user friendly fashion. The intention of this tool is to expand access of FAERS data to the general public to search for information related to human adverse events reported to the FDA by the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare providers and consumers. See: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/guidancecomplianceregulatoryinformation/surveillance/adversedrugeffects/ucm070093.htm
  • Data sets, such as http://govdashboard.fda.gov/, which relate to inspections, compliance and recalls. This dynamic online tool presents information in an easy-to-read graphical format. It provides access to the underlying data, allowing the public to see related data and trends. Users can also view, download and manipulate the data.
  • Agency components continue to create web pages for specific issues of heightened consumer or media interest, to better inform the Agency’s constituency without requiring the submission of a FOIA request.  For example, FDA has posted extensive information in the reporting period on such subjects as:
  • Drug compounding:
  • FDA also continues to post the following records on a regular basis, among others:
  • HRSA continues to post the Universal Data Set (UDS) report which contains the data reported by over 1,300 HRSA-funded Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQHCs).  Every FQHC must file an annual UDS report made up of 14 highly detailed tables with approximately 20,000 data points. This past year provided clear evidence of the efficiency that can result from such disclosures.  In FY 15, the first year that the UDS data was posted, there were over 60 FOIA requests for UDS data.  In FY 19 there were only 20.  The link to the Reading Room is:  https://www.hrsa.gov/foia/electronic-reading.html

The Reading Room page also lists the HTML links for several of HRSA’s most requested databases and programs.  These include the HRSA Data Warehouse, the National Practitioner Data Bank, the Office of Pharmacy Affairs 340B Database, and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Data and Statistics.  In addition, it contains links to a wide assortment of other related databases, health center policy statements and announcements of HRSA funding opportunities.

  • NIH has proactively disclosed the following information:




  • Cost of Maintaining Humane Care and Welfare of Chimpanzees (updated yearly)
  • Twitter feed at homepage: https://orip.nih.gov/  
  • Highlighting Progress Relative to ORIP’s Strategic Plan
  • Data on S10 Instrumentation awards
  • Nonhuman Primate Evaluation and Analysis Part 2: Report of the Expert Panel Forum on Challenges in Assessing Nonhuman Primate Needs and Resources for Biomedical Research
  • Fiscal Year 2020 Interim Awards Funding Policy
  • Publication of Notices, RFIs, and Funding Opportunities
  • Chimpanzee Management Program
  • Physiological and Welfare Concerns of the At-Risk Chimpanzee Population
  • Executive Summary for Physiological and Welfare Concerns of the At-Risk Chimpanzee Population
  • Chimpanzee Health Categorization Framework: Harmonized Across NIH-supported Facilities
  • Contract Solicitations: Contract for the operation and maintenance of the Chimpanzee Care Center (CCC). In accordance with FAR 5.2, a sources sought notice was published on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website on October 3, 2019. The notice sought sources capable of satisfying the SOW in compliance with applicable federal laws, regulations, and policies.


  • News and feature articles about Fogarty’s programs and grantee successes, scientific publications etc.:
  • Weekly funding newsletter including items of interest to global health researchers:
  • Commentary and publications by Fogarty Director:
  • Newly funded grants and awards:
  • Distribute Global Health Matters newsletter featuring articles on program and grantee successes to more than 60k subscribers every 2 months
  • Distribute global health funding news to more than 46k subscribers weekly
  • Share related information multiple times a week with more than 6,300 followers on Facebook
  • Share related information each business day with more than 13,700 followers on Twitter



  • Cancer Moonshot funding opportunities and updates:
  • Data Releases from the Genomic Data Commons (GDC):


  • Health Topics:
  • Spanish Health Topics:
  • Information about new research:
  • New initiatives:




  • NIAMS Intramural Research Program researchers regularly deposit data into public datasets. Some examples of such datasets are:



  • Information about funding opportunities and decisions is of particular interest to NIH/NIDCR stakeholders and the public. Examples of funding-related items that were posted on the NIDCR website in FY18 include:
  • Request for input on Proposed Research/Funding Initiatives
  • Information on Research Investments and Advances
  • Meetings and proceedings of the NIDCR Advisory Council
  • Funding Opportunity Announcements searchable by topic, funding type, activity codes, and other.
  • Yearly lists of total award amounts to U.S. Academic Institutions and Dental Schools
  • Funding Outcomes     
  • NIH/NIDCR and grantee press releases and other news
  • The NIDCR website also posts updated information (in English and Spanish) on a wide range of oral health topics. To answer frequent requests for how to obtain free or low-cost dental care, the Institute has created a Finding Dental Care web page.
  • The Institute also produces a quarterly e-newsletter.




  • Funding Opportunities (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/funding/index.shtml):  This information is continually updated with many postings on program announcements, requests for applications, policy announcements, and other opportunities as well as related information on Institute priorities and our Strategic Plan, grant writing and approval, managing grants, and training and development.
  • Federal Advisory Committee Act (Activities):
  • National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC): The NAMHC advises the HHS Secretary, the NIH Director, and the NIMH Director on all policies and activities relating to the conduct and support of mental health research, research training and other programs of the Institute.  In response to scheduled meetings, NIMH updated these dedicated web pages with agendas, Director’s reports, and minutes:
  • Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC):
  • The IACC is a FACA that provides advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC/NIMH) oversees and regularly adds new material to the IACC website including agendas, meeting materials and slides, biographies, transcripts, approved minutes, Congressional and other reports, publications, news items, public comments, and webcasts.  [NOTE:  IACC information is posted on the HHS site by the staff of the Office of Autism Research Coordination, NIMH: https://iacc.hhs.gov/
  • IACC News Updates:
  • The Autism Research Database (https://iacc.hhs.gov/funding/data/) is a full-text searchable web-based application and is a companion to the 2008-2016 Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Portfolio Analysis Reports. The Portfolio Analyses are produced on behalf of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to better inform the IACC and interested stakeholders about the funding landscape and current directions for ASD research. 
  • Training, Educational, and Health Information sites:
  • Outreach Efforts and Events
  • NIMH developed a new NIMH Education and Awareness portal on its website with tools and resources designed for and dedicated to outreach. The portal features sharable social media graphics and messages, videos, podcasts, mental health information, brochures and fact sheets, statistics, and announcements about upcoming live events and exhibits: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/education-awareness/index.shtml
  • NIMH launched Discover NIMH, a new e-newsletter for stakeholders to highlight mental health information, shareable social media messages and graphics, and information about publications, activities, and events for use by stakeholders in their community mental health outreach and education. 4 issues were distributed in 2019.
  • NIMH maintains its list of Outreach Partners representing all states, DC, and PR. Outreach Partners disseminate NIMH research findings and educational materials to the public throughout their states and local communities; they conduct outreach activities to address the needs of various populations experiencing or at-risk for mental health disparities. The contacts are updated throughout the year as needed: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/outreach/partnership-program/outreach-partners.shtml
  • NIMH maintains its list of National Partners representing professional, consumer, advocacy, and service-related organizations with a nationwide membership or audience. These partners work with Outreach Partners to enhance the effectiveness of each other’s work. This page is updated as needed throughout the year: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/outreach/partnership-program/national-partners.shtml
  • In early FY19, NIMH posted a meeting of the NIMH Alliance for Research Progress 2018 Meeting. The Alliance is a group of patient and family advocates from national voluntary organizations representing individuals with mental illness convened annually to hear information on research advances, to allow representatives to share their views and concerns about current Institute priorities directly with the NIMH Director and senior staff: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/outreach/alliance/index.shtml
  • The Archive is a group of Federal data repositories based on an informatics platform for research domains related to mental health.  It also serves as a scientific community platform and portal to multiple other research repositories, allowing for aggregation and secondary analysis of data.  The NIMH Data Archive team regularly adds new material and data to the websites of the repositories included in the Archive: 
  • The repository was initially established as the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR).  In 2015, the system expanded to make data available via the following websites:
  • National Database for Autism Research (NDAR)
  • National Database for Clinical Trials Related to Mental Illness (NDCT)
  • Research Domain Criteria Database (RDoCdb)
  • Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study
  • The National Database for Autism Research (NDAR; http://ndar.nih.gov): The NDAR team regularly adds new material and data to the NDAR website NDAR is an NIH-funded research data repository that aims to accelerate progress in autism spectrum disorder research. NDAR has federated with the following repositories:
  • Pediatric MRI Data Repository — stores rich phenotypic and imaging data from more than 500 typically developing children, from birth to young adulthood.
  • The National Database for Clinical Trials Related to Mental Illness (NDCT; http://ndct.nimh.nih.gov): NIMH has made data sharing an expectation for all future clinical trials funded by NIMH; researchers are expected to submit both positive and negative data and results from NIMH-funded clinical trials.  NDCT will provide a system to support submission, sharing and access. At present, data submitted to NDCT will be the result of grants funded through NIMH. 
  • The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD: http://data-archive.nimh.nih.gov/): This is the largest long-term study of cognitive and brain development in children across the United States to date. The project will recruit 10,000 healthy children age 9-10 and follow them over 10 years into early adulthood. The ABCD Repository will house data generated as part of this study.
  • The NIH NeuroBioBank – The NIH-funded Neurobiobank is a national resource for investigators utilizing human post-mortem brain tissue and related biospecimens for their research to understand conditions of the nervous system: https://neurobiobank.nih.gov/.




  • NINR recently added a women’s health page to its website that highlights research, both conducted at and funded by NINR. The new page explains how nursing research informs women’s health and demonstrates how NINR helps to advance the careers of women scientists:
  • NINR recently added a spotlight on symptom science and nursing research, which highlights the NINR Symptom Science Center as well as research conducted at and supported by NINR:
  • Several new videos have been live broadcast and posted to the NINR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/NINRnews), including:

2. Beyond posting new material, is your agency taking steps to make the posted information more useful to the public, especially to the community of individuals who regularly access your agency’s website?

The Department continues to actively use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest and GooglePlus to communicate and disseminate information to the public. Some examples of HHS OpDiv initiatives are described below:

  • The five main OS/ASPA-managed websites, which include HHS.gov, had a total of 28.2 million users, 61.2 million unique page views, and 95 million total page views. In FY19, 42% of users on average accessed an OS/ASPA-managed site using a mobile or tablet device, continuing the growth and importance of mobile communications.
  • The CDC FOIA tracking system has a utility that identifies similar requests.  It is utilized as a guidepost and rely on staff to monitor and identify requests similar in nature. The CDC FOIA office is reviewing options to make its website more user friendly, to include sorting and searching records. 
  • The CMS, in response to public demand, continues to make Public Use Files available on its website. 
  • The FDA FOIA Office reviews every FOIA request prior to logging and assignment on a daily basis.  During that process, staff members identifies requests for records that should be proactively posted under the requirements of the FOIA.  The FDA FOIA Office works with the components that maintain those records in order to have them proactively posted.  The various components may also determine based on their own processing of requests that certain records should be proactively posted. FDA uses social media, such as Facebook.  
  • The NIH FOIA Officer reviews the log of all incoming FOIA requests weekly and identifies frequently requested documents that appear to be of interest.  The NIH FOIA Officer also reviews all completed requests monthly which also enables her to identify frequently requested documents.  In addition, each of the NIH FOIA Coordinators also reviews their individual logs (available from the NIH-wide Tracking System) to identify frequently requested documents or program areas in which there is continued interest.  Finally, the NIH FOIA Community meets monthly.  During those meetings, materials produced more than three times in response to FOIA requests are identified for posting.

3. If yes, please provide examples of such improvements.

Yes.  HHS continues its efforts to make more information available through mobile applications and increase its presence in social media; thereby expanding access to more useful information and data. In addition, the Department’s FOIA Offices continue to make their online content and navigation tools more user-friendly, to include the use of “topical terms” to aid requesters in their search efforts.

4. Optional --  Please describe:

  • Best practices used to improve proactive disclosures
  • Any challenges your agency faces in this area
  • HRSA’s extremely large and complex UDS database is primarily of interest to the academic community and others who carefully monitor the performance of the FQHCS.  But for more general consumption, the HRSA Bureau of Primary Health Care posts “Health Center Profiles” for each FQHC that are based on their annual UDS report. These profiles are readily understandable “snapshots” that present a summary of the UDS data which is most indicative of how many patients were seen and what type off care was provided to them by a particular FQHC in a given year.  These profiles are located at: https://bphc.hrsa.gov/uds/datacenter.aspx?q=da
  • NIH:
  • The NIH FOIA Officer attends weekly meetings with the NIH Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison and his deputies, including the Deputy Director for Public Affairs and the Chief of the News Media Branch.  At these meetings, current media issues are discussed as well as upcoming NIH events.  Those for which we anticipate interest are identified for proactive disclosure. 
  • The NIH Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison meets bi-monthly with the Communications Directors of the NIH Institutes and Centers where matters of interest to the public are discussed and identified for proactive disclosure.  Especially when major research initiatives are being announced, those involved identify material that will assist with informing the public and that information is posted at the time of the announcement. 
  • The NIH Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison, the FOIA Officer’s direct reporting official, also attends weekly meetings of NIH Leadership where program initiatives, upcoming meetings and high-profile matters are discussed.  Any matter he believes may be appropriate for proactive disclosure are then discussed with the FOIA Officer.
  • Within the NIH components, various communications, research, and policy individuals monitor their component’s activities and research portfolios for matters appropriate for proactive disclosure.  The Communications offices also monitor correspondence from the public and stakeholders for topics of general interest.  Web teams monitor websites for sites that receive many views to identify material that might be appropriate for translation into other languages.

The HHS FOIA Offices continue to work with requesters to explore new and improved ways to post online information. Some examples of these actions are described below:

  • CMS - Requests for beneficiary records comprises approximately 85% of requests for CMS.  Those records contain Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Health Information (PHI), which is protected information and therefore only provided directly to the requester. Additionally, CMS often receives requests for large data sets related to Medicare claims, healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, etc.  Even if the data sets do not necessarily contain beneficiary PII or PHI, they are difficult to post publicly under Section 508 guidelines given the lengthy descriptions of artifacts and tables necessary to interpret the complex data.
  • IHS currently works with IT staff to develop proactive disclosures.
  • NIH - Within the NIH components, various communications, research, and policy individuals monitor their component’s activities and research portfolios for matters appropriate for proactive disclosure.  The Communications offices also monitor correspondence from the public and stakeholders for topics of general interest.  Web teams monitor websites for sites that receive many views to identify material that might be appropriate for translation into other languages.

Content created by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Division
Content last reviewed on April 2, 2020