Fresno is Hungry for Better Health Data

Connor Alstrom, Health Data Ambassadors, Fresno

Hello all, my name is Connor Alstrom and I am working with the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) as Fresno’s City Health Data Ambassador. My work is a part of the CHCF’s Free the Data Initiative which has been a huge supporter and promoter of enhancing health for all Californians.

In my role, I’m running point in Fresno to explore new ways to utilize California’s publicly available health data so that we can learn from the past (data) to create a healthier future in our city. I won’t be doing this alone and in over the next few months I am organizing a group of professionals from across sectors in Fresno who share an interest in the health of our great city.

As a group, we will aim to take the Health Data that is available on the California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Open Data portal, review, interpret and explore ways, which new tools and technologies can aid in delivering new health care solutions. In fact, we’ll be taking a close look at the many statewide and national examples such as Chicago’s Flu Shot Finder, Yelp Lives, and EBT Near Me to learn what might work here in Fresno, and add our own unique flavor.

That said, here at Fresno State I know first hand the realities of our student and campus-wide community. From my discussions and work with student body leaders such as Moses Menchaca, President; Anthony Farnesi, VP of Finance; and Abigail Hudson, Executive Vice President, I was able to find out pressing health issues that matter most to students. I also learned that the health issues students face, extend beyond our campus to our community and region.

Fresno State has very hardworking students, with most holding down full time jobs to support their full time education. Yet, in talking with our student body leaders, who have been working to combat a health issue that affects about 1/3 of our student body; food insecurity. This project of addressing food insecurity at Fresno State was spurred by MPH student, Alida Espinoza who recently completed her thesis on the food insecurity of college students.

Food insecurity is something that most of us do not think about as we have some socially acceptable way of getting all of the nutrition we need. Alida uncovered that about 1 out 3 college students in the California State University System (the largest 4-year public university system in the country) did not have access to socially acceptable ways of getting the nutrition they need and therefore are food insecure. Food insecurity also affects our larger community, according to a 2009 interview survey (CHIS) it was found that 16.7% of Californians are food insecure; while in Fresno County 21.6% are food insecure.

Although, Fresno State has worked diligently to combat this issue by offering discounted, nutritionally complete meals to students, so students do not have to wonder where their next meal comes from. This critical issue and how it relates to our larger community is something that I am working on and will explore through this project.

I’m looking forward to sharing with you what we learn through our work in Fresno. Next month at the kick-off roundtable with public leaders, health leaders, and technologists our efforts begin. The CHHS Health Data Portal has opened the door to insights and innovation to come, and over the next few months, our team in Fresno will be hard at work to usher in progress.