The Community Health Data Initiative

Department of Health and Human Services

Unleashing the Power of Data to Help Improve Health

The Challenge

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) holds vast amounts of data that could help improve health – including data on community health performance (e.g., smoking rates, obesity rates, rates of potentially avoidable hospitalizations), determinants of health (e.g., local access to healthy food), hospital quality, nursing home quality, and much more.  The question faced by HHS:  how best to unleash the power of this data to help improve health?   

The Solution

HHS’s answer:  the Community Health Data Initiative.  The fundamental approach being taken by the Community Health Data Initiative is inspired by the weather – or more specifically, what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has done with weather data.  NOAA collects enormous amounts of weather data, which it then makes available to the public on the Internet in downloadable, machine-readable form, free of charge and without intellectual property constraint.  A diverse array of innovators outside NOAA then turn that data into weather websites, newscasts, mobile applications, research, and other products and services that create great benefit for the public. 

The Community Health Data Initiative is turning HHS into the “NOAA of health data.”  HHS is supplying to the public – free of charge and without intellectual property constraint -- a growing array of online, easily accessible, downloadable health data.  Simultaneously and very importantly, HHS is also proactively marketing the availability of this data to innovators outside HHS – innovators from the worlds of technology, business, media, academia, public health, and health care, who are engaging with the data and using it to power a growing array of applications that benefit the public.

The Benefit

These applications include community health maps and dashboards, health data integrated with web search, health care provider finders, educational games, powerful new analytical tools for clinical providers, journalists, and community leaders, and much more.  They represent a growing wave of applications that can help consumers, care providers, employers, local officials, and community leaders make better decisions and improve health.  And they are applications being built by a diverse and inspiring array of companies, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, academic organizations, and others in a remarkable display of the power of American innovation.

For more information on the Community Health Data Initiative, including how to get involved, please email: