Putting Numbers to the Problem

Healthy Insights for South Carolina Seeks to Demonstrate How Public Data Sources and Data Modeling Can Be Used to Tackle Population Health

It’s no secret that South Carolina struggles when it comes to health. With higher rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes than the nation at large, we continue to suffer from the negative social impacts that come along with poor population health, which has been linked to everything from poor education outcomes to diminished worker productivity.

The how and why of unhealthy lifestyles range from access to good, healthy choices and physical activity to education opportunities and economic development, so it’s important to take a comprehensive, holistic approach to turning the tide. That starts with having the data visualization and modeling tools to ensure initiatives and policies are targeting the problem correctly.

The new Data for Healthy Insights initiative—a partnership between the South Carolina Association of Community Economic Development, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the MITRE Corporation—was introduced specifically for this purpose. Using publicly available sources across multiple platforms and sectors, the initiative has created a visually coherent and comprehensive open-source dashboard that can be utilized by a wide range of users, from service providers to community organizations, who are working to make our state healthier.

The dashboard provides a valuable tool for users by allowing them to map dietary-related disease distributions next to social and environmental factors that impact health, like median income, education, access to food resources, and physical activity opportunities.

Healthy Insights hopes that the dashboard will help slow or even halt the increase of obesity in South Carolina. The group estimates that if they could simply maintain today’s levels, the state would save roughly $3 billion by 2018. Currently a pilot project, the initiative is offering four $25,000 grants, one for each region of the state, to address population health and make use of the data. The due date for applications is October 31, 2016. To learn more about eligible applicants and projects, you can attend one of the three remaining regional interest meetings (click here for details) or see the complete application guidelines here and grant budget worksheet here