May 22, 2007

Health Data Geeks’ Wisdom

I was lucky enough to be invited to a “Data Users Conference” sponsored by the Health Information National Trends Survey/National Cancer Institute, which really should have been called Health Data Geeks Unite! If you have a moment, I highly recommend browsing through some of the presentations, particularly the following:

  • David Stinchcomb showed how isopleth maps can be used to smooth regional data into a lovely “weather map” connecting low belief in the risk of smoking with the reality of high lung cancer mortality rates. (If you like that kind of data mapping, check out Social Explorer.)
  • Jon Miller argued for the need for “biological literacy” since the 20th century was the “age of physics” and the 21st century will be the “age of biology.”
  • Michael Link reminded us to watch out for the effect of cellphone-only households on classic phone survey results. A snail mail survey found that 52% of cell-only respondents had been recently tested for HIV vs. 35% of landline respondents, for example. 40% of cell-only respondents are binge drinkers vs. 23% of landliners. (This was news to me since my colleagues in the political end of the Pew Research Center had found that cell-only respondents were politically akin to landliners. Watch this space for updates for the 2008 election cycle!)
  • Tenbroeck Smith said that the American Cancer Society call center handles about 1 million calls per year, while cancer.org handles about 20 million visitors.
  • My presentation focused on how e-patients are using the latest participatory media (Flickr, MySpace, YouTube, etc.) to document, advocate, educate, and illuminate their own health journeys.