Number crunchers, rejoice! Health and housing data are coming together

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Receipt of a modest grant is typically not big news, but this one just might be. In fact, this “data integration” grant has public health, public housing and health care professionals in high spirits because now we’ll be able to work together more effectively.

The Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH) grant – $200,000 through July 2017 – is leading the data geeks amongst us to perk up our ears.

Why it’s first-of-a-kind

The DASH initiative is taking the first step to integrate affordable housing and health data so that we know more about how public health interventions work for residents of affordable housing. Specifically, the grant will focus on linking public housing and Medicaid data. That’s because 75% of adults and 99% of children who live in low-income housing in our community also receive health insurance through Medicaid. By coordinating data across these two sectors, we will have greater opportunities to provide client-centered, team approaches to improve residents’ health.

This work is exciting – it’s new, innovative and important:

  • It matters because it means we can improve the quality of life for low-income residents and reduce health inequities in King County.
  • It matters because we will have better access to and use of data to inform health interventions, track results, and measure cost savings.
  • It’s new because never before have we been able to securely link data across these two sectors.
  • It’s novel because it will be coordinated through a new structure called the Accountable Communities of Health (ACH). The ACH’s primary purpose is to achieve better health, better health care, at lower cost by bringing together partners from many different sectors. Check out our previous blog: What the Heck is an ACH: Five things you should know.

The ACH team called the “Performance Management Workgroup” applied for the grant and will be coordinating along the way. Working together on this project means new relationships are being formed across sectors that will be instrumental for future cross-sector work.

How does the DASH initiative work?

The first steps include building relationships both in data and people between our two sectors. Leads from Public Health, King County Housing Authority and Seattle Housing Authority are coming together to address the tricky questions of how to link Medicaid claims data with public housing data so we can get a clearer picture of the health issues facing our communities.

Medicaid data on any one individual won’t be shared, but rather data on the health of the publicly subsidized housing population as a whole. For example, data queries could show specific rates of diabetes within public housing agency populations. That in turn could help identify programs such as community health workers to provide diabetes-related prevention services on site. Ultimately, data could be used to evaluate how effective these programs are for residents and housing choice voucher participants.

The challenge

While having integrated data systems and strong relationships may seem like a no-brainer between the public health and public housing sectors, there are multiple challenges to overcome starting with addressing the ways to securely link data. This is where we are lucky to have epidemiologists, privacy and security experts, along with public health and housing experts on board.

Learn more about these and other cross-sector efforts through the King County Accountable Communities of Health.