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Find health data at Childstats.gov, a clearinghouse for kid numbers

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Time to add another link to your “federal data clearinghouses” folder, if you haven’t already. Childstats.gov, published by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, synthesizes data from the CDC, NCHS, National Children’s Survey, AHRQ, Census and other specialized programs.

kidsPhoto by nasa hq photo via Flickr

The site is anchored by its annual report, “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,” and the easy-to-navigate nature of its databases seems to have already inspired some discussion on Twitter, particularly in relation to child homelessness.

Many of the data tools are simply links to general surveys (like AHRQ’s National Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project) that just happen to contain child-related information, but there are some more specifically relevant data sources, the best of which I’ve listed below.

Data shows disconnect between patient perception, hospital performance

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Sifting through Medicare hospital rating data, USA Today reporters Steve Sternberg and Christopher Schnaars found an enlightening disconnect between patients’ subjective ratings of hospitals and hospital performance on quantitative measures such as death and readmission rates.

“This is a very important finding,” says Donald Berwick, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, adding that though patient-survey data offer critical insights into how it feels to be a patient at different hospitals, patients’ perceptions don’t tell the whole story.

The story is packaged with an infographic that allows readers to look up ratings for local hospitals.

AHCJ resources

Institute launches global health data clearinghouse

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Last month, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (about) launched the Global Health Data Exchange (or GHDx), a sort of clearinghouse for global public health data sets. At launch, the site boasted about 1,000 data sets and promised it will index and host “information about microdata, aggregated data, and research results with a focus on health-related and demographic datasets.”

dataThe data is accompanied by visualization and GIS tools. For updates on the site, add the GHDx blog to your RSS. And, if you’re looking for a more direct connection, you can plug right into the RSS of new databases.

At present, the data is global in nature, though there are still plenty of domestic and comparative sets that will be of use to just about any U.S. reporter. Many of them will be familiar to data-heads, but it’s still handy to have it all in one place. The site will point directly to data providers when possible, and will work to provide public data for direct download. Free site registration is required before downloading.

The health highlights of two years of Guardian data

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In two years, the Guardian’s data blog has published more than 600 data sets. I know this because, thanks to their nifty summary post, I just browsed the full list. In addition to more than a few UK analogues to the sort of stuff we see from AHRQ and NCHS, such as UK life expectancy, birth rates and aging populations and public spending, they’ve also got the sort of global health stuff that any journalist or blogger could pull out and use in a post tomorrow. I’ve collected some of my favorites and tried to strike a good balance between unique stuff and broad-spectrum, widely available global health data.

And finally, for no particular reason, here’s the outcome of every freedom of information request ever filed by the BBC. Also in the category of “data for curious journalists/insiders”? Several years of UK libel cases.

Disciplined docs turn up on Pfizer payroll

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

New Scientist’s Peter Aldhous and Jim Giles created an interesting mash-up of two popular health stories, disciplined caregivers and conflicts of interest, by matching a set of Pfizer disclosures on payments to doctors and researchers in 2009 with discipline records from the FDA and the country’s most populous states. They found 26 matches on the state level and four from the feds, matches which accounted for about one in every 50 Pfizer-paid doctors in the states they’d investigated.

They assembled a number of anecdotes for the story, but the most telling related to a physician who was disciplined for faulty research related to a Pfizer drug, yet still paid by the company to lecture on it.

Other Pfizer experts ran into trouble during their research. Among them is Thomas Gazda of Scottsdale, Arizona, who was paid to lecture about Geodon after being reprimanded by the FDA over irregularities in his conduct of a trial of the same drug’s use in children and adolescents with bipolar disorder – one of whom was given more than the maximum allowable dose for five days. The FDA had earlier told Pfizer to exclude Gazda’s data from the results submitted by Pfizer during its efforts to win approval to use the drug for this purpose.

AHCJ has extensive resources for folks looking to do both sides of the mashup, with tips for investigating conflicts of interest from John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and recommendations for looking into disciplined caregivers from ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber.