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A Web Portal Measures Health Needs in Washington, DC

Washington, DC – Today marks the release of two important community health resources for Washington, DC: a citywide community health needs assessment and an interactive community health web portal, DC Health Matters. Both products are sponsored by the District of Columbia Healthy Communities Collaborative, a unique partnership among four DC-area hospitals, Children’s National Medical Center, Howard University Hospital, Providence Hospital, and Sibley Memorial Hospital, and three community health centers: Community of Hope, Unity Health Care, and Bread for the City.

The community health needs assessment, conducted by the RAND Corporation, used a combination of quantitative and qualitative data analyses to demonstrate that gaps in care and services persist for District residents, children, and adults, with uneven distribution by ward, despite high levels of health insurance coverage.

Four priority health conditions were identified including reproductive and sexual health, mental health and substance abuse, obesity, and asthma. The DC Health Matters portal served as a key resource in developing the needs assessment. DC Healthy Communities Collaborative will continue to maintain DC Health Matters to serve as a one-stop resource for community health information in DC.

“The community health needs assessment report is an evidence-based foundation that will focus efforts to improve health outcomes to the most pressing priority areas,” said Children’s National Medical Center’s Chaya Merrill, DrPH, Director of the Child Health Data Lab. “DC Health Matters not only displays that data, but provides avenues for finding and posting tried-and-true or promising tools and resources as a means to encourage collaborations between and among community-based organizations and researchers.”

The DC Health Matters portal provides a series of dash boards that display how DC measures on a success odometer of topics that impact well-being and quality of life including health, economy, education, environment, government and politics, public safety, social environment, and transportation. The intent of the site is to give community stakeholders the tools needed to understand and act on public health indicators that affect the health of DC communities. 

In addition to providing indicators of community health, the DC Health Matters portal provides a series of promising practices, local resources, and funding opportunities. The promising practices section of the site highlights exemplary programs and successes of local, state, and national initiatives. The local resources and funding opportunities sections provide key information needed to aid stakeholders to move from knowledge to action. The DC Health Matters portal will be a key element in strengthening and building healthier communities through the provision of state-of-the-art web-based assessment and improvement tools. The tools can also help Washington, DC, communities set goals and evaluate progress.

“In today’s environment it’s vital to use an evidence-based, collaborative process in efforts to improve our community’s health. By bringing together area hospitals, community health centers, and other interested parties through the DC Health Communities Collaborative, we will accomplish that task,” commented Ruth Fisher Pollard, Chairperson, DC Healthy Communities Collaborative.

The DC Health Matters initiative was made possible through generous philanthropic support and National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Award funding. Funding for the portal is maintained by the DC Healthy Communities Collaborative which seeks to reduce health disparities and increase healthy equity for the most vulnerable DC populations.

The DC Health Matters portal was supported by Award Number UL1RR031988 /UL1TR000075 from the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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