communitydashboardI’ve been blogging about our Community Profiles Dashboards over the last few weeks.  They’re a powerful new tool for public health professionals, city planners, non-profit organizations, and medical providers, and anyone interested in heath data.  We’ve showcased several of the functions of the Dashboards and how they can help visualize and analyze health data.  The final blog in this series looks at opiate prescription drug-related deaths in Arizona.

Overdoses and prescription drug deaths are a major public health problem.  When taken as directed for legitimate medical purposes (and prescribed appropriately) prescription pain medicines can be safe and effective.  Powerful prescription drugs are often easily accessible in home medicine cabinets, and hundreds of Arizonans face the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse every day.  For health professionals to develop programs to combat this growing public health issue, it is important to understand the effect on our communities.

If you recall from the previous blogs, we’ve organized data by Primary Care Areas, which represent Arizona’s communities and describe where people go to obtain health care.  By adding layers to the data, such as the communities with higher number of prescription drug deaths and the demographics of the areas, you can dial in on very specific information related to the health issue you are investigating.  A useful tool in the Dashboards is the trend data over time.  This is important because it allows you to track the progress of public health interventions.

As you’ll see in the video tutorial, the Dashboards can help identify gaps in data.  To use data to plan public health programs and interventions, it’s important that the data be accurate and representative of the community.  The Dashboards will help identify data that may skew your results.  For example, if you’re looking at a community with just a few prescription drug deaths, and in the following year there were double the number of deaths, a simple percentage would show that the deaths increased by 100%.  This may be a correct equation, but an inaccurate way to interpret the data.  The power of the Dashboards are the functions that help you identify and account for this kind of data in your research and planning.

We’re doing our part to help combat prescription drug misuse and deaths.  With the help of several partners we have developed Arizona’s first Opiate Prescribing Guidelines that will be released in a few days.  To learn more about the development of the prescribing guidelines, take a look at our Clinician’s website.

You can visit our YouTube channel to look at all four video tutorials and learn more about the Community Profiles Dashboards.