Health Data Project Toolkit a Guide for CA Health Data Ambassadors


The Communities Outreach Program for State Health Data kicked off in February 2015 with the overarching goal to build a long-term, sustainable, open data program that encourages community support from across sectors and builds a bridge to local communities with California’s health data. Purchia Communications LLC has been provided with a grant from the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) Free the Data initiative to develop and run a community pilot program that leverages the available data on California’s Health and Human Service Agency (CHHS) Open Data Portal. As part of this effort, three cities were selected for the pilot: Los Angeles, Fresno and Sacramento. Health Data Ambassadors, based off of the Code For America Brigade model were chosen to represent and lead the project in each city.

During the first phase of the pilot, the Health Data Ambassadors brought together local elected officials, government agencies, nonprofits, community organizations, civic hackers and technology companies. These stakeholders shared valuable information and feedback from the community with the State, to determine how new technology could best address various health challenges throughout California. Just one example is the agile development of an asthma visualization tool with the state and the community. This new resource will help medical experts, government leaders and concerned citizens pinpoint environmental factors that contribute to higher asthma rates throughout local communities all across the state.

Through the efforts of the Health Data Ambassadors, more state health data has been made available in improved formats. This has led to the development of innovative products and services. For example, WICit, was developed by Jesse Rosato, a Code For Sacramento Brigade captain. He used health data available on the CHHS Open Data Portal to develop a platform that helps families easily figure out where WIC (a federally funded health and nutrition program for women, infants, and children) is accepted. There is also an immense benefit to the general public when journalists use health data furnished by the State to inform everyday citizens about important health issues. Earlier this year,the New York Times published a vaccination rate visualization map that used CHHS vaccination data to track the recent measles outbreak that started at Disneyland.

Our Health Data Ambassadors also worked to ensure that CHHS health data reached people that can best implement and put that information to good use. During the 2015 National Day of Civic Hacking (NDoCH), Health Data Ambassadors in Sacramento catalyzed the development of new products including a Demand Driven Open Data tool (DDOD), which provides an opportunity for external users of California health data to request data they need. An easy-to-use Twitter based notification service for newly released CHHS data sets was also created.

This toolkit serves as a guide and resource for you to pursue the following goals as a Health Data Ambassador:

  1. Identify members within your local health community that could benefit from simpler, more open access to CHHS data.

  2. Work with your community to prioritize local needs that could be addressed by CHHS data.

  3. Provide on-going feedback that you receive from the community with CHHS.

  4. Develop applications that address a real-world community need and demonstrate the value of open data.