Todd Park, 37, is taking public-health data—obesity rates, smoking rates, access to healthy food—and liberating them. Through the Community Health Data Initiative, the information is now available to everyone, including developers and businesses. "It's insufficient to just put data out there," he says. "We want to market them to people who can turn them into supercool apps." One developer has suggested open-sourcing a social-networking game—and creating the FarmVille of community health. "We can educate people," Park says, "and help them use the data to lead healthier lives." In his mind, his current job isn't much different from his previous one—Park cofounded Athenahealth. "I still think of myself as an entrepreneur," he says. "Everyone at HHS is—we have the data and the mojo. We form virtual startups to accomplish our goals."
We see our initial Plan as just the beginning of what will be a continuous journey toward ever more substantive transparency, participation, and collaboration at HHS.
Democratizing access to our data will improve public knowledge of what HHS does. It will help illuminate what's going on with respect to our nation's health and facilitate action by citizens, providers, patients, researchers, employers, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, and others to improve health and well-being. It could provide the basis for new products and services that help Americans get better health care.