Local Data for Better Health

Today Americans face many health-related challenges, such as chronic conditions related to heart disease, diabetes, poor nutrition and insufficient physical activity. But data to provide context to effectively address the type of health challenges being faced by cities and neighborhoods have been elusive, even though this information would have the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of millions of people.

Fortunately, this type of data will soon be available at the city and census tract levels for America’s 500 largest cities through a CDC Foundation partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This first-of-its-kind data set will identify, analyze and report on 27 chronic disease measures, focusing on conditions, behaviors and risk factors that have a substantial effect on the public’s health.

We announced the launch of the 500 Cities Project in February 2016. An interactive website that will allow users to view and explore city-and census tract-level data will be available in the spring of 2017.

The surveillance measures developed through this project will enable public health professionals, city officials, policymakers and researchers to retrieve and explore uniform information that they can use in meeting the specific health needs of their citizens. 

Last week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation convened a meeting of public health officials, city planners, and state and local health officials in Dallas. I was grateful for the opportunity to attend this meeting and hear from some of the experts about the potential for how this data can be used to improve population health.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, talked about the potential for this project in a recent LinkedIn blog. "Efforts like these are so powerful precisely because they’re driven by the community, where the needs are most clear, and where change is truly felt. And the first step is giving people the tools they need to take informed steps to better health – that’s where 500 Cities comes in. We look forward to seeing this data spark the kind of big ideas and collaboration that will create healthier places to live, learn, work and play in your community, and across the nation."

 "The release of the 500 Cities data corresponds with the recent completion of our Shaping the Healthy Community: The Nashville Plan book, a case study for public health and built environment improvements for Nashville. This incredible data resource extends the reach of the work we have started, and provides further evidence for better informed decision making, prioritized areas of need, and opportunities for targeted interventions within the built environment of Nashville," said Gary Gaston, executive director of the Nashville Civic Design Center.

To ensure the health of America’s neighborhoods and communities, it is vital to understand the scope of the nation's most pressing health challenges. We are very grateful for the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for this project, and we are excited to see the potential for this project to improve the health of Americans across the country.

Learn more about the project data on CDC’s website.

Claire Stinson is a communications officer for the CDC Foundation.