Building a Bridge to Local Communities with California’s Health Data

A statewide project funded by the California HealthCare Foundation’s Free the Data Initiative

There’s a new project brewing in California. And it’s working to make our communities healthier. There’s a vast amount of health and health care data collected by the State of California and now there’s a new effort to get these data to the people and organizations that can use them. This past August, California’s Health and Human Service Agency (CHHS) launched an open data portal with datasets of information collected throughout the state. Everything from baby names to hospital seismic safety ratings. Each month more of this valuable information is being made easily available to the public.

But data is only valuable if it’s used to inform, educate, and advocate.

It’s powerful, for example, when these data can be used to create tools like WICit, a web app created by local community members that helps families easily figure out where WIC (a federally-funded health and nutrition program for women, infants, and children) is accepted. Or when the New York Times uses the state’s health data to create an interactive map of measles-immunization rates for kindergarteners in California.

The California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) is launching a new project in 2015 to encourage California communities to use this data in tangible and relevant ways. There are three pilot programs running: Sacramento, Fresno, and Los Angeles.

The project is bringing together CHHS, local governments, and, most importantly, the community — providers, civic hackers, advocacy groups — to ensure this valuable information is finding its way into the hands of people and organizations that can put it to good use.

Through a grant from CHCF, Purchia Communications LLC is building a coalition of health data users in each of the three communities. These coalitions will both inform CHHS on what sort of information is most useful to the community and create something useful and tangible to benefit the local community. Working with the community, we will create and deploy at least one web app, visualization, or product using state health data that benefits the local community.

This project is part of the CHCF’s Free the Data initiative, which seeks to unlock the potential of government health data by catalyzing development of tools to better access, analyze, and communicate information. Audiences include journalists, entrepreneurs, developers, consumers, and state and local policymakers