Making Public Health Data Work in Illinois Day 1 Roundup

Stephen Konya speaking at 1871 during the "Making Public Health Data Work" event

IDPH Chief of Staff Stephen Konya speaking at 1871 during the “Making Public Health Data Work” event

This past weekend, health care policy makers, practitioners, and technologists gathered together at 1871 to talk about how we could make public health data work here in Illinois.

The event was hosted by a number of partners including the Health Data Consortium, Illinois Department of Public Health, the California HealthCare Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Health Data Consortium and the new world of public health data.

The health care system is a vast complex system spanning a large number of government bodies and private partners. Within this system, massive amounts of health data exists that could give doctors and policy makers insight on how to improve the health of residents everywhere.

The Health Data Consortium’s mission is to facilitate the release of this data and to promote innovation using health data. The Health Data Consortium works with governments, nonprofits, and academic institutions to provide guidance and resources to facilitate the release and use of health data.

Each year, the Health Data Consortium hosts a Health Datapalooza to bring health care practitioners, technologists, and policy makers together to find new ways to use health data to help residents lead healthier lives.

Here’s Health Data Consortium CEO Dwayne Spradlin talking about the role of the HDC and why they wanted to host an event in Illinois.

Health Data in the State of Illinois

The State of Illinois has made opening up health data a priority. The State data portal ( ) already has a number of health data sets.  Deputy Governor Cristal Thomas spoke about the state’s commitment to open data.

The release of health data is also a priority of the Illinois Department of Public Health. The Illinois Department of Public Health has an enormous impact on the health of residents in Illinois.  IDPH inspects and regulates medical practitioners, promotes sanitation, and runs over 200 different programs in Illinois to promote and ensure the health and safety of Illinois residents.

The Director of IDPH, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, spoke about the Department’s commitment to open data.

Illinois is joining a nationwide effort to open up public health data. At the federal level, the US Department of Health and Human Services has launched to aid developers and researchers looking for health data. is part of the US Health and Human Services’ Health Data Initiative.  The site hosts hundreds of data sets related to health data and is continuing to add datasets. The CTO of HHS, Bryan Sivak, delivered the keynote address about HHS’s open data efforts.

One of the most important take-aways from the keynote was the call to action for community involvement. If don’t see a dataset that you want to use, then HHS wants to know about it. If you’re using their health data in an innovative way, then HHS wants to know about it. The Ideas section of the site is a great place to submit ideas about health data.

HHS is also working with innovators to help scale their ideas to the larger marketplace. This work is immensely important and will help bolster the market for civic startups.


The event also featured several panels about the role of public health agencies and innovators can play in making health data work in Illinois.

Panel led by Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck of IDPH on “The power of health data.”

A panel led by Simmi Singh on “Government as a Catalyst.”

Panel on “It take a village” led by IDPH Chief of Staff Stephen Konya.

And lastly, a lighting round panel led by Dwayne Spradlin


There were also showcases about products that are already innovating around public health.

These included our own Chicago Health Atlas

There were also several civic startups that were featured including Purple Binder, a civic startup here in Chicago that helps provide data on social service resources.

Another startup that’s innovating around health data is Higi. Higi is a kiosk that users can use to test their blood pressure and other vital signs.

Socrata, the data platform that powers the state data portal, was also showcased. Socrata’s platform, which includes an API, is a powerful tool that developers can use to help build apps using open data.

And it wasn’t just civic startups that were showcased. GIS pioneer Esri also spoke about it’s own platform for helping governments harness their data.

The event was also a chance to talk about case studies with open data. These included a presentation by Dr. Wilma Wooten of the City of San Diego who spoke about San Diego’s Live Well program.

You can find out more about next year’s Health Datapalooza by going to the Health Data Consortium website.