World Immunization Week: Closing the Gap with Open Health Data

April 25, 2016 11:00 am PDT | Open Data

Around the world, immunization-preventable diseases like measles, whooping cough, and rubella are resurfacing as public health threats. Despite years of awareness, much more still needs to be done in order to close the immunization gap, and health data is part of the solution.

Vital healthcare statistics — from vaccines to epidemic tracking to chronic disease charting — shared through open data platforms help stakeholders improve health services delivery, inform public debate, and educate and engage the community. Open health data can be used to power visualizations, reveal trends, and map out immunization rates and disease outbreaks. To find out more about how open data can transform public health and influence policy check out this complimentary webinar.

As the World Health Organization prepares for World Immunization Week, we’re taking a look at how federal, state, and local agencies are using open data to improve health in the U.S.

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has capitalized on the benefits of open data by publishing information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a survey that collects data from U.S. residents regarding health-related risk behaviors. The survey information has proven valuable at the state and local level as a powerful tool for targeting and building health promotion activities. As a result, BRFSS users have increasingly demanded more data and asked for more questions on the survey. To suggest additional datasets, you can contact your state coordinator here.

Another valuable dataset at the CDC is PRAMS, the Pregnancy Risk and Monitoring System, which collects state-specific, population-based data on maternal attitudes and experiences before, during, and shortly after pregnancy. The data covers about 78 percent of all U.S. births and includes vital information around flu vaccines during pregnancy. This type of information is critical in understanding emerging concerns and trends in the field of reproductive health as it relates to immunizations

At the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is using data to inform the public on the costs of health care by providers and locations. CMS powers two open data portals:

  • data.cms.gov contains important information related to Medicare such as which providers are approved to bill under the program, as well as interactive maps that show where providers are located
  • data.medicare.gov contains information such as physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies that are covered under Medicare

Together, these sites make it easy for patients to find participating health providers and evaluate the quality of care at agencies, hospitals, and nursing homes.

In New York State

The state of New York worked with Socrata to create Healthy.Data.Ny.Gov. The site shares School Immunization Survey data, so community members can see which schools are ensuring that K-12 students are vaccinated. The map color codes each school based on the level of immunization and allows users to drill down to see percentages of exact vaccinations completed.

New York Health Portal

In King County, Washington

In Washington State, where vaccine exemptions are high, schools are legally required to report immunization-exemption requests. Having this information publicly available can help prevent and respond to outbreaks — and also allows parents to know if immunization rates at their child’s school is low. King County, Washington, offers residents a map, powered by open data, to show immunization coverage. This information empowers community members to take action to keep their children safe and healthy.


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