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Sharing Data Across Sectors to Build Healthy Environments

Written by Peter Eckart and Alison Rein on November 21, 2016

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Through the integration of health data and evidence from sectors like housing and education, local residents and leaders have the ability to better detect problems, test interventions, and ultimately transform environments to improve health.

Read the full Expert Insight series!

Many of the strongest predictors of health and well-being extend beyond hospital walls and into our neighborhoods, schools, work places and homes. Tackling the root causes of health disparities often requires that communities engage and partner across multiple sectors. For many, a critical first step is to share data that generates a more complete picture of individual and community health. Through the integration of health data and evidence from sectors like housing and education, local residents and leaders have the ability to better detect problems, test interventions, and ultimately transform environments to improve health.

All In: Data for Community Health is a national network dedicated to building the capacity of local collaborations to capture, integrate and use data to address social determinants of health. The two founders of All In—Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH) and the Community Health Peer Learning Program (CHP)—collectively represent a cohort of 25 community projects. Through this expanding community of practice, they are engaged in peer-learning to support exchange of lessons learned and promising practices that can accelerate local and national progress. This blog illustrates how DASH and CHP projects are sharing data across sectors—specifically housing, education, social services, and criminal justice—to create healthier environments where people live, learn, work, and play.   

Through the integration of health data and evidence from sectors like housing and education, local residents and leaders have the ability to better detect problems, test interventions, and ultimately transform environments to improve health.

Examples from the Field

King County Data Across Sectors for Housing and Health (DASH)

Recognizing that safe and affordable housing is a key component of health, Public Health Seattle & King County is partnering with local public housing authorities to create an integrated data system that links administrative housing data to Medicaid claims records—creating a de-identified data set that will be shared back with the housing authorities. This project, part of the King County Accountable Community of Health, is the first time health and housing partners are working to securely link data between sectors to inform new interventions to improve health and quality of life for subsidized housing residents. As health concerns are revealed by the data sharing, public health and the housing sectors can align efforts to address specific health needs of the residents. For example, they may work to reduce exposure to asthma triggers in the home or offer diabetes prevention classes in public housing facilities.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CHP)

Working to help Cincinnati’s kids to be the healthiest in the nation through strong community partnerships, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) is integrating electronic health records, school data, and geographic information systems data to identify where and when children in the Avondale neighborhood are at disproportionate risk for asthma events. Working with integrated data, CCHMC aims to address underlying social determinants (e.g., safe housing) and reduce inpatient hospitalizations for pediatric patients. Their data sharing approach involves three phases: 1) convening a work group to define measures of interest 2) defining processes for using those data to improve community health; and 3) using the developed infrastructure to inform and evaluate small-scale tests of change.  

Baltimore Falls Reduction Initiative Engaging Neighborhoods and Data (DASH)

The Baltimore City Health Department and its collaborators are leading a city-wide effort to reduce falls among older residents by sharing timely, comprehensive data with a diverse set of stakeholders. By creating a real-time data surveillance system to track fall-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations through Maryland’s Health Information Exchange, they’ll be able to identify hotspots for falls across the city. As outlined in a recently adopted health department regulation, B’FRIEND will identify the geographic distribution of falls and other risk factors and individuals that have suffered from a serious fall or are at high risk. Community partners from housing, social services, aging, and others are eager to use the data in a number of ways, such as implementing evidence-based exercise interventions, making improvements to the built environment, or offering targeted facility repairs.

Louisiana Public Health Institute (CHP)

Health information technology can be effectively used to support shared management and coordinate care. The CHP Program’s Crescent City project is leveraging its Health Information Exchange and working to integrate clinical, public health, and private/public records data to identify and intervene for severe and persistently mentally ill and vulnerable populations that are high utilizers of emergency departments, the criminal justice department, and social services agencies. Through their collection of electronic health records and other health data, the project aims to improve health outcomes and reduce costs of care. Their strategy includes convening stakeholders, conducting a requirements analysis, developing a solutions architecture and data definitions, and devising appropriate data governance structures. Ultimately, the Crescent City project would like to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of care coordination, and support better access to services for approximately 400 people suffering from behavioral and mental health conditions.

Learn more

Looking for more information on current efforts to improve community health through multi-sector data sharing? Read the second post in this series, which highlights key insights gleaned from these projects that can help communities in the early stages of multi-sector data sharing and collaboration.  

About the Author

Peter Eckart and Alison Rein

  screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-1-19-35-pm           Peter Eckart, M.A. Director, Center for Health Information Technology, Illinois Public Health Institute Peter Eckart’s career spans over twenty-five years in which he has successfully spearheaded operations and project management in not-for-profit organizations. In addition to his role as Director of Health and Information Technology at the Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI), he is currently leading the National Program Office at IPHI for a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative, Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH). DASH identifies barriers, opportunities, promising practices and indicators of progress for multi-sector collaborations to connect information systems and share data for community health improvement.  Past accomplishments include the creation and direction of the Illinois Framework Stakeholder Engagement Project, where he oversaw the education, assessment and engagement for a multi-agency systems integration effort intended to lead healthcare transformation in Illinois. At IPHI, Peter created the public health data portal IQuery under a CDC grant, and led a national multi-organization environmental scan of local policy databases for healthy communities.  Peter earned his master’s degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago, and an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Valparaiso University, Indiana.   Alison Rein, M.S.  Senior Director, Evidence Generation and Translation, AcademyHealth Ms. Rein is a Senior Director for Evidence Generation and Translation at AcademyHealth, where she directs several projects that investigate how new sources of data and expanded stakeholder engagement are helping to transform health, care and research. Ms. Rein leads the Community Health Peer (CHP) Learning Program, a partnership with ONC to establish a national peer learning collaborative for 15 competitively awarded communities to address specified population health management challenges through increased sharing and use of electronic data. The CHP program builds on the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program, which Ms. Rein helped to support by identifying, documenting and disseminating results and lessons learned from these community-based initiatives.  Ms. Rein has expertise in health IT and exchange policy, stakeholder engagement, comparative effectiveness research, information management and governance and community-based improvement, and has written and presented on a number of these topics. With nearly 20 years of experience in the health care field, she brings a range of skills to her work, including technical assistance design and execution, collaborative network development, research design and policy analysis. Prior to joining AcademyHealth, Ms. Rein was assistant director of food and health policy at the National Consumers League. Ms. Rein holds a master's degree in public policy analysis from the University of Rochester.