UIC School of Public Health establishes new center for public health data analytics

The University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health has launched the Population Health Analytics, Metrics and Evaluation, or PHAME, center.

The center is funded with a $189,436 award from the Otho SA Sprague Memorial Institute, which supports the Chicago Health Atlas, the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Healthy Chicago initiatives and similar efforts designed to make health and wellness data useful to all.

The PHAME Center at UIC will combine novel technology with academic expertise to provide a hub of advanced data visualization, evaluation, and analytics to community members, students, policymakers and researchers in Chicago and beyond. By combining these elements — community, scholars and technology — the center will advance data-driven public health decisions, meaningful population health initiatives and reduction of health disparities including those related to COVID-19. The center will also provide policy and research briefs that showcase health equity measures and potential data utilization in health equity research. 

Sanjib Basu, the UIC Paul Levy and Virginia F. Tomasek Professor of Biostatistics, and Sage Kim, associate professor of health policy and administration, will co-lead the PHAME center.

Basu and Kim have engaged in data modeling and research concerning racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 transmission and mortality in Chicago since March. Recently Kim’s research identified the effects of existing social vulnerability and health risk factors contributing to COVID-19 outcomes and geographical patterns associated with increased COVID-19 death rates in Chicago, particularly among Black communities.

“We are able to visualize the spatial impact of COVID-19, with a unique social vulnerability index to quantify the level of inequality that had already existed before the pandemic, which has produced uneven burden of COVID-19 in Chicago,” Kim said. 

Kim also examined COVID-19 transmission in correctional settings, which has been published by UIC’s Institute for Government and Public Affairs.

The center will collect a wide range of health, social, economic and demographic data from multiple national and local sources, including the Chicago Department of Public Health, U.S. Census, and health surveys from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as Chicago and Illinois Community Health Needs Assessments and other regional health surveys. Much of the data will be tagged to a census tract, ZIP code, county-level, or community areas, allowing users to look at data on a granular level to help tailor policies and programs to a specific area’s health needs.

“One of the strengths of the new center is to help integrate diverse streams of data to identify health disparities and to help optimally target preventive and treatment services,” Basu said.

Data visualization will be provided in an online data platform in collaboration with Metopio, Inc. The center will also work closely with UIC’s Collaboratory for Health Justice to expand partnerships with communities in Chicago and beyond.

Other investigators include Dr. Wayne Giles, dean of the UIC School of Public Health; Jeni Hebert-Beirne, associate professor of community health sciences; Ronald Hershow, director and associate professor of epidemiology; Vincent Freeman, associate professor of epidemiology; and Garth Rauscher, associate professor of epidemiology, all at the UIC School of Public Health.

Written by Sharon Parmet

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