Data-Driven Action

December 7, 2022

Recent grant to bring comprehensive health data to Idaho for the first time

County-level health data will soon be at our fingertips as a result of $92,000 grant awarded to the Institute for Modeling and Collaboration Innovation (IMCI). The project is driven by research scientist Eric Seamon and health practitioner and Clinical Associate Professor Helen Brown, who are modeling this data to make it accessible as a force for change in Idaho’s health policy.

Using data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the new research uses demographic factors in each county to estimate health behaviors and disease risk. Seamon and Brown’s models illustrate correlations between COVID-19 risk, disease and social determinants of health such as insurance coverage, limiting English, poverty and education.

Their results will be visible to citizens and policymakers alike on an interactive website called Modeling Idaho Health, currently being built by RCDS Research Applications Architect Jennifer Hinds. The website is scheduled to go live in early 2023. 

Idaho has only ever had CDC health risk data on a metro, regional or state-wide level, which can mask glaring inequities on the county level. Without this specific data, insists Brown, “we can’t clearly identify health risk and we leave out groups that aren’t well-represented in our state.” Generating more information about health inequity will urge policymakers to direct funds to the right places.

Brown’s long-time vision is to have better health data for our state. With the help of Seamon’s modelling skills and support from IMCI, she is excited to be making this vision a reality in her lab she calls HERE (Health Equity Research and Evaluation).

Brown and Seamon will continue to build on these studies to create new models of Idaho data from tobacco use risk factors to climate change risk. With Seamon’s modelling skills and climatology background, he is eager to start asking research questions that span multiple disciplines.

This project generated plenty of enthusiasm when it was presented to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, who funded the grant and need this data to identify and serve vulnerable populations. As the project gathers attention, it’s increasing Idaho’s competitiveness for future CDC funding to identify, implement and evaluate public health strategies.

“This is how we drive public health action,” says Brown.

Learn About IMCI

Article by Kelsey Swenson
IIDS Scientific Writing Intern