Time To Measure Public Health Effectiveness

Staff Writer | Government Health IT | August 25, 2014

It has historically been difficult for public health officials — especially at cash-strapped state and local departments — to actually gauge whether or not their outreach and initiatives really work. A new tool from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Health Partners aims to change that.  Community Health Advisor predicts the health and economic impact of public health policies at the county level.

The tool uses data such as rates of smoking and obesity applied to a sample of 13 million people. It calls on demographic and health data from sources such as the U.S. Census and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.  A set of health economics models called ModelHealth, developed over 15 years by researchers at the HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research, powers Community Health Advisor to address obesity, tobacco use, cardiovascular disease and many others.

Lawmakers, community leaders, employers and public health officials will have access to unprecedented data models to make informed decisions about where to make public health investments, said George Isham, MD, senior advisor, HealthPartners, and member of the National Commission on Prevention Priorities. “This tool is the first to provide estimates of future health outcomes and medical costs from public health interventions for every county in the country,” Isham said in a prepared statement...