Healthbeat: CDC provides hyper-localized health data estimates to improve resource distribution

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A new initiative from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention is focusing on the impact location has on people’s health and well-being.

Think how much better health initiatives could be if you could hyper-localize health data. That’s the thinking behind a new initiative that helps pinpoint community health issues.

It’s a website called PLACES which stands for Population Level Analysis and Community Estimates. The CDC initiative provides county, city and census-based health estimates nationwide including smaller cities and rural areas. PLACES is considered especially timely given the current pandemic.

“We know that many of these chronic diseases in my center actually put people at very high risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” said Karen Hacker, MD, MPH, Director, CDC Chronic Disease Prevention Center.

The PLACES website looks at 27 health variables including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Even conditions like arthritis and behaviors like smoking and obesity are also evaluated on how much they are impacting residents of a specific zip code or some other geographic level.

“You can then really drill down into the neighborhood level to identify areas where there are high proportions of particularly chronic diseases and behaviors including some healthy behaviors,” Hacker said.

With information comes power which Dr. Hacker says will allow local and state health departments and community organizations to use resources as efficiently and effectively as possible based on neighborhood-driven data and how that compares to the rest of Pennsylvania and the rest of the country.

“So, you’ll be able to particularly in some of our smaller communities and I don’t know but I was a health department director in Pennsylvania, so I know it well and in some of those communities getting data like this is just not something that they have access to,” said Hacker. “So, this is now an ability on a national website to get into that information.”

PLACES is a partnership with the CUCS, the CDC foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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