First Health and Human Services Open DataFest

Stewards of Change Institute is proud to announce the first health and human service Open DataFest, taking place in Sacramento, California January 21st and 22nd.  The purpose of this symposium is to build broad awareness, knowledge and utilization of open data in general, but more specifically within health and human services across California. Working in partnership with the California HealthCare Foundation and the Health Data Consortium we are exploring ways that open data can improve the provision of government services, generate new knowledge, inform policy and motivate entrepreneurs. 

The dramatic acceleration of ‘free the data’ efforts across the nation, and world for that matter, are revolutionizing the interaction between citizens and government.  Stemming from President Obama’s executive order at the start of his first term huge troves of data have been released at the federal level.  This trend has been replicated by states, counties and cities across the nation which has stimulated a profound shift in expectations about having access to not personally identifiable or confidential information that is already collect by government for a wide range of purposes.  A recently released book, Beyond Transparency, edited by Brett Goldstein and Lauren Dyson provides just-in-time case studies from more than 20 open data initiatives.  As part of the HHS Open DataFest, Stewards of Change Institute has compiled a open data handbook from several recognized leading sources to assist people interested in learning about and building open data programs.

While open data represents an exciting opportunity to increase government transparency, create new knowledge, improve decision making and even stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurism I am most excited about the possibilities for improving health and human services.  Historically, health care has focused predominantly on clinical and case level data about patients and clients to improve outcomes.  However, there is growing recognition due in part to findings from the field of ‘social determinants’ that traditional health care services account for only about 20% of health care outcomes.  The remaining variance is shaped by health behaviors (up to 30 percent), socioeconomic factors (up to 40 percent) and physical environmental factors (up to 10 percent). Recognizing the importance of social determinants for the health and wellbeing of individuals underscores the importance of building systems that are designed to cut across silos, share information and generate data for effective decision making.  Open data plays an important role in providing critical information to identify resources, assess quality and assist with decision making.

Recognizing the importance of human services in the overall health and wellbeing equation is critical so that we can focus our attention and limited resources on the things that matter most.  Open data offers easier and quicker access to the information and resources that human service professionals and clients themselves need to make decisions.  At another level open data helps create a more holistic view of a client, family and/or a community context which can complement protected and confidential information that our human and health programs collect and use now to make decisions.  By combining both these data sources service providers will be better equipped to design interoperable solutions and provide more complete assistance and services.

The Open DataFest represents an exciting opportunity to explore the possibilities, “the art of the possible”, if you will.  We are honored to be supporting the effort and are looking forward to sharing our learning after the symposium.  Materials will be posted to the SOC website including videos from the event, presentations and also access to a collaboration site that will build a community interested in building and sharing this body of knowledge. 

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