Building Fresno’s Health Data Village

Connor Alstrom, Health Data Ambassador — Fresno

It has been an active month for improving the health of Fresno. We kicked-off our the first of many roundtable discussions about utilizing California’s Health Data in the Valley, held talks about incorporating Career Technical Education in Healthcare jobs at our high schools, and have begun discussion about launching a Code for America Brigade chapter here in Fresno.

Last week, we had our first roundtable discussion, bringing together healthcare professionals, open data experts, community representatives, and technologists.

We discussed how Health Data that is being published by the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS) could benefit our community here in and around Fresno. Andy Krackov, Associate Director for External Engagement at California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), gave an overview of the Free the Data Initiative that CHCF has initiated to ensure that the State’s Health Data is reaching California’s communities effectively.

Something Andy said really stood out to me, “it takes a village to Free the Data”. The village is made up of the members and leaders of our community. People who are stakeholders in ensuring a healthier Fresno and who ensure that these great health data resources are not squandered.

A leader in Fresno’s data village, Sara Bosse, Manager of the Office of Policy, Planning and Communication at Fresno County Department of Public Health, gave a lay of the land of the health landscape in Fresno and the County’s Department of Public Health’s initiatives for a healthier Fresno.

One of the leaders in the State’s growing civic tech movement, Jesse Rosato, from Code for Sacramento, shared how his team created an application, WICit. WIC is a federally funded health and nutrition program for women, infants, and children. The CHHS Open Data project made WICit possible. WICit pulls health data on locations of vendors who accept WIC credit and displays vendor locations on an interactive map that helps families easily find grocery stores where WIC payments are accepted. They have even made it possible to link over to Google Maps and get directions to the store!

WICit is something that is currently available in Fresno, yet Sara Bosse emphasized the need for applications and visualizations for our community to be available in Spanish. Which leads me back to the great work of Jesse and his Code for Sacramento Brigade who have made their WICit app entirely open source. This means that developers in Fresno (or from other cities) can add more features to the app. The ability to view WICit in multiple languages is definitely possible.

Each participant shared their expertise on how Fresno could benefit from the State’s Health Data. Some of these include:

  • Creating an application using the data on registered healthcare facilities to map out all facilities across Fresno, what their admission requirements are, and even what bus routes are close so that people can actually get to the facilities.
  • Creating visualizations of what to do to avoid illness that is avoidable, and making sure that it was bilingual.
  • There were also ideas to increase cooperation with pharmaceutical companies to share their data, or to fund data collecting initiatives.

Those were just a few of the great ideas presented. We are in the process of narrowing down the list of ideas and will select one to fund for Fresno. With community help, the state’s health data, and our local technology community, we can then build an application to serve the needs of Fresno and our larger community.

A great example of state data being used in our community can be seen in reporting from the Fresno Bee’s Barbara Anderson. She is in the middle of a four part investigative series about health in Fresno. Barbara’s first article shed a light on many different diseases that take their toll on valley residents and specifically utilizes health data in illustrating effects of asthma on our community.

Partnerships which bring the state’s health data to the public is one of the main goals of the Free the Data Initiative, and Barbara Anderson’s article exemplifies that effort. In order to continue the feedback loop and to move forward on creating an application for Fresno, we will host another roundtable in mid-May. This roundtable will help solidify the data and problems that Fresno has which can be solved with the health data.

We will then bring a panel of health experts from Fresno to meet with a group of technologists and civic hackers on June 5 to articulate the issues they have seen. Then, the technologists and civic hackers will have 24 hours to put together an application addressing a community problem they just heard about. The 24 hour hackathon will culminate on June 6th, the National Day of Civic Hacking, with presentations from each team on the completed application they created.

More information about the hackathon will follow shortly as we finalize details with Bitwise Industries and the California HealthCare Foundation who are generously supporting this event.

I will continue to keep you updated as this community effort continues to roll smoothly ahead. Within the next two months, we should have a useful application to interpret the State’s Health Data for Fresno and are looking forward to rolling it out to all of Fresno!

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

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