UAMS website makes county health information easily accessible
By Melanie Goodell, MPH
Instructor, Department of Epidemiology
Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health
Assistant Director, Arkansas Prevention Research Center Evaluation Unit
Locally specific, up-to-date health data are essential for program planning, policy development, and public health practice, all of which are contributing to improved health for Arkansans. However, such data can be difficult to locate. Public Health in Arkansas’ Communities Search (PHACS) is a website that was created to fill this void. PHACS includes a wide range of county-level health and demographic data for all of Arkansas’ 75 counties, as well as data for social conditions affecting health. In-depth county-level reports are also available for download.
Since the site’s launch in 2010, it is becoming a popular tool for researchers, students, community organizations, and health care providers. Those working to reduce health disparities find the site useful, because it provides information on an array of variables relevant to the social determinants of health, access to health care, and health outcomes.
The website, developed at the UAMS College of Public Health in partnership with the Arkansas Center for Health Disparities, the Arkansas Prevention Research Center, the UAMS Center for Clinical and Translational Research, and the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, can be accessed at www.uams.edu/phacs.
PHACS includes more than 100 health indicators. The information is updated quarterly and all sources are cited, so that the user can be confident that what is available is both accurate and timely. Indicators are organized into the following categories:
· Demographics—descriptive information such as population by race and age
· Social environmental factors—data such as income, unemployment, and education
· Access to health care—information regarding health insurance and availability of clinical services
· Behavioral risk factors—data regarding risk factors such as inactivity, teen drug use, and smoking
· Preventive care and screenings—information about the use of preventive care and screenings, such as the percentage of elderly persons receiving flu shots
· Health outcomes and mortality—information about the prevalence of selected health conditions and cause-specific mortality rates
The website is designed to be user-friendly so that the information can be accessed in several different ways. One can search by county, and then pull up data about specific health indicators within that county. If multiple indicators for a county are of interest, one can download a County Profile Report, a PDF file that includes all of the indicators available within the PHACS for that county. If one wants data for the state as a whole, it can be accessed for a given indicator, which will generate a state map and table. Either county or topic data can be downloaded as an Excel file.
New indicators are added regularly, and the site is continually refined to increase functionality. Most recently, in August 2011, PHACS en español, a Spanish language mirror site, was launched to make this valuable health information accessible for more people.