Building a Municipal Health Data Dashboard for American Cities

CITY Health Dashboard

Few measures are available for cities to assess health, the factors that shape it, and the drivers of health equity. The just launched City Health Dashboard addresses that gap. It provides city leaders with an array of regularly refreshed data to support health-related decision-making. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Dashboard offers data on 36 measures for the 500 largest U.S. cities - those with populations of about 66,000 or more – representing approximately one-third of the U.S. population. Equipped with these data, local leaders have a clearer picture of the challenges facing their communities and how to address them. The Dashboard can be accessed here.


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The National Resource Network, part of the White House Initiative on Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2), along with NYU Langone Medical Center and NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service have launched the Municipal Health Data for American Cities Initiative. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NYU will be developing a first-ever dashboard for essential health data for U.S. cities. Four cities – Flint, Michigan, Kansas City, Kansas, Providence, Rhode Island and Waco, Texas – will work with NYU to pilot the effort.

The Municipal Health Data for American Cities Initiative will frame federal and county data at the municipal level, extract key benchmarks that are embedded in existing city-level data, and create entirely new indicators through big data and social media activity. Health measures will be developed based on input from city leaders, federal data providers, data experts at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), and other experts in urban health metrics. The list of measures will be finalized by this spring and an interactive website will be available this fall.


Primary goals

  • Enable cities to compare progress and performance on shared metrics in order to:
  • Galvanize municipal-level action for health
  • Support cities already pursuing a health agenda
  • Catalyze others to take action


  • Secondary goals
    • Explore the feasibility of providing measures at the neighborhood level for cities
    • Identify innovative measures that might extend beyond those commonly used to assess health and health equity


  1. Establish inclusion criteria for candidate measures
  2. Compile candidate measures
  3. Refine and finalize set of core and supplemental measures
  4. Build prototype City Health Dashboard (CH-Dash)
  5. Populate CH-Dash with core metrics for 4 cities
  6. Prepare a fully scoped work plan to scale CH-DASH nationally

The four cities were selected for the pilot project in part because of their participation in the National Resource Network or other parts of the federal SC2 initiative and their commitment to addressing local health challenges. The cities will work together as a peer network and help to inform the process and ensure that the metrics selected for inclusion in the dashboard are useful, innovative and actionable for city leaders.

Flint, Michigan – In its application to participate as a pilot city, the City identified additional health concerns including obesity and maternal, infant, and prenatal health issues including low birth weight and premature deaths. City leaders are also interested in examining the local food system, housing quality, public safety, educational support, workforce opportunities, and transportation systems as they work to address Flint’s health issues. Currently, Flint is facing a public health crisis in connection to lead levels in its water supply. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided technical guidance on lead health issues to Flint and the State of Michigan. In addition, HUD has created data fields in its grants management data system so the State, one of HUD’s lead hazard control grantees, can track outreach and enrollment for lead hazard control work in homes of families with water-related concerns. The SC2 initiative has supported Flint by assigning a community solutions team to the City. Additionally, the SC2 federal team on the ground will extend its two-year engagement beyond June through the end of 2016, continuing to focus on economic development while also supporting the broader federal response effort.

Kansas City, Kansas – Governed under the Wyandotte County Unified Government, Kansas City struggles with a number of socioeconomic challenges, including poverty, unemployment, low graduation rates, food deserts, and housing that is either inadequate or insufficient. In the urban core, access to healthy foods is a particular concern. Kansas City leaders plan to use city health data to inform their efforts to make the city more safe and livable. They are also interested in using social media tracking to identify health topics by neighborhood. The Network has supported the city in its efforts to develop an innovative Healthy Campus in downtown Kansas City.

Providence, Rhode Island – Providence is Rhode Island’s largest and most ethnically diverse community. The City’s residents face health challenges including high chronic disease and related risk factor burdens that disproportionately affect Providence's low-income residents and communities of color. Providence plans to employ population-based strategies based on the data that focus on high-risk, vulnerable groups, and that expand the reach and health impact of improvements across sectors. The Network is working with City officials to develop a ten-year financial plan with a goal of both balancing the budget and improving quality of life.

Waco, Texas – Waco identified access to care, obesity, women’s health, and mental health as the community’s top health concerns. The community is lacking in data about mental health. Community leaders are interested in progressive ways to analyze mental health from innovative uses of social media to gauge the mental state of the community, as well as ways to better gauge the city’s walkability and perceived safety. The Network is working with City officials and community stakeholders in support of Prosper Waco, a public-private collective impact initiative designed to reduce poverty by improving education, financial security and health outcomes.

About National Resource Network

The National Resource Network is a component of the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative, and is a $10 million technical assistance program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Network is being implemented by a group of leading experts from the private and public sectors, including Enterprise Community Partners, Public Financial Management, HR&A Advisors, New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the International City/County Management Association. The Network develops and delivers innovative solutions to American cities to help them address their toughest economic challenges. More information about the National Resource Network is available online at You can also follow the National Resource Network on Twitter @NatlResourceNet.

About the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center

The Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center unites the fields of medicine and public health to improve the health of populations in New York City and around the globe and to educate students to become leaders in healthcare delivery, health policy, and public health. Partnering with colleagues at NYU Langone, NYU Lutheran, Bellevue Hospital, and diverse community and private sector organizations, the Department conducts basic and applied research to improve the quality and effectiveness of healthcare and to prevent and better manage disease. Trained in diverse disciplines, the Department’s more than 60 core faculty and 200 dedicated staff specialize in research areas including: healthcare delivery science, health economics and policy, epidemiology, biostatistics, medical ethics, early childhood development, community health and health equity, decision science, and tobacco, alcohol, and drug use prevention and treatment. For more information, please visit:

About the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU

NYU Wagner has been educating and preparing the world’s future public service leaders since 1938. Our students translate personal commitment into nonprofit, public, and private sector careers that have an impact on the world’s most pressing issues. Our faculty conduct research that changes the way people frame, understand, analyze, and act on issues of public importance. For more information, please visit

About Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at