Providence launches first-ever online data tool for urban health

City of Providence Participates in Launch of First-Ever Online Data Tool to Examine Urban Health 

Pilot health dashboard will greatly expand City’s understanding of its citizen’s health & well-being and how it can be improved

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza Tuesday announced that the City of Providence is participating in the launch of the City Health Dashboard, an online data visualization tool made possible through efforts from the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine, NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, and the National Resource Network, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The dashboard will greatly improve city-level understanding of health and empower mayors, city managers, health officials, and other local stakeholders to enact policies that target the risk factors and health conditions that most impact their communities.

“By reporting city-level data on physical activity levels and obesity prevalence, the dashboard will help us evaluate our progress toward our goal of making the Providence one of the healthiest, most fit cities in New England,” said Mayor Elorza. “Physical fitness and overall wellness have been important priorities for my administration, and this exciting initiative gives us a new tool to build a healthy, strong, and vibrant city.”

Over 80 percent of the United States population lives in urban areas. Yet, Providence and other U.S. cities seeking to make health improvements have lacked a standardized tool to understand and benchmark their city’s standing on actionable and widely accepted indicators of health and health risk, because most health data in the U.S. is simply unavailable at the city level. 
The user-friendly website presents 26 measures related to health across five areas: health outcomes, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. The data includes traditional health metrics such as premature mortality, teen birth rate, and adult obesity prevalence, as well as non-health measures that impact health, including unemployment rate, third-grade reading proficiency, walkability, and air quality. 

All measures are presented at the city-level and, where possible, by neighborhood, based on census tract, and demographic group. The City Health Dashboard also displays national averages, so that cities can compare their performance on select metrics to national values. Users can explore the data through easily navigable maps and tables to better understand health disparities within and across their cities.

The data for this dashboard comes from federal and state governments and organizations that apply rigorous methodology to data collection, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Providence and the other pilot cities face economic challenges, which are reflected in rates of children in poverty, unemployment, and high housing cost burden, according to City Health Dashboard data. Similarly, all of the pilot cities have higher teen birth and violent crime rates and lower high school graduation rates than the national average.  

Furthermore, it should be noted that Providence’s rates of adult obesity (25 percent in Providence compared to 29 percent nationally) and jail incarceration rates (219 percent per 100,000 people in Providence to 326 per 100,000 nationally) are lower than the national average, according to Dashboard data. But the greatest value of the City Health Dashboard is that it paints a clear and accurate picture of priority areas for cities to target with improvement efforts.  

“We created the City Health Dashboard in response to local demand for more accurate data about the health of our cities’ citizens,” said Marc Gourevitch, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Population Health and principal investigator for the Dashboard. “City leaders know that ‘what gets measured is what gets done.’ They want accurate, actionable data so they can improve their citizens’ health, contain health care-related costs, and focus on community well-being. We’re excited to be the first to provide this important information to cities.” 

“In our work with nearly 50 cities across the nation, we have learned that city governments want to improve the physical health of their residents as much as the economic and fiscal health of their cities. But most health data in the U.S. is simply unavailable at the city level,” said David Eichenthal, Executive Director of the National Resource Network. “Now, through the City Health Dashboard, local decision makers in these four cities have the data that they need to work to create healthier communities.”

The Dashboard is available at cityhealthdashboard.com and can be expanded to other cities in the future. 

(release from City of Providence) 

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