RWJF Launches Initiative to Assess How Big Data Can Be Used to Improve Health

Last Thursday, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced the launch of Data for Health, a big data initiative  the Foundation is starting to look at how health data information can be used to help us lead healthier lives. The new initiative’s advisory committee will be co-chaired by David Ross, ScD, director of the Public Health Informatics Institute, and Ivor Horn, MD, MPH, medical director of the Center for Diversity and Health Equity at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

In a statement issued by RWJF, President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD,  said “The sheer volume and velocity of data at our fingertips today is unprecedented. As we build a Culture of Health—a nation where everyone has the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives—it will be critical to ensure communities can effectively use and manage this information in ways that help people get healthy and stay healthy. The Data for Health initiative will be a starting point for identifying what infrastructure is needed to turn this information into an effective tool for improving health nationwide.”

In an effort to involve health leaders, providers and other professionals in the discussion, the advisory committee will host a series of Learning What Works events in five cities across the country. Critical issues to be addressed at each event include:

  • How health data is collected
  • How health data will be shared
  • How health data will be protected in ways that are meaningful to individuals, providers and communities


The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will participate in each of the five hosted sessions No surprise as adoption of EHR technology through the CMS EHR Incentive Program and rapid advancements in health apps are not only rising together, but finding ways to intersect. Read this related story, EHR Vendors Partner with Apple HealthKit.

In the statement released released by RWJF, National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, said “We look forward to hearing and learning from communities about their vision of how health information technology beyond electronic health records can advance the public’s health beyond health care. We appreciate RWJF supporting this conversation and look forward to the findings as it will help shape meaningful health information technology policy for our nation.”

In the next few months, the initiative’s advisory committee will travel to Philadelphia, Phoenix,  Des Moines, San Francisco; and Charleston, and will report on the results of each event and provide recommendations sometime in early 2015.

The Data for Health advisory committee is comprised of public health practitioners, physicians, health care researchers, health technology and informatics experts, consumers and representatives of local government and health care systems. Read the full RWJF press release on Data for Health initiative.