EDITORIAL: Gather, analyze, act on health data

2013-05-15T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Gather, analyze, act on health data nwitimes.com
May 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Doctors and nurses examine patients carefully, listening to voiced complaints but also studying data before making suggestions to help these individuals. The same process should be followed to improve public health.

A graduate-level student project at Indiana University Northwest examined the evidence -- ambulance data collected between 2002 and 2011 -- and mapped it to analyze the numbers more carefully.

The result of this study found the volume of calls is down slightly, but not as rapidly as the city's population drop.

The study also found that 10 locations made up 8.2 percent of all EMS calls to the city during the 10 years, an indication that residents there were either very ill or perhaps relied too heavily on emergency medical care to handle chronic ailments.

One address made 72 EMS calls over nine months for diabetes problems, said Joseph Ferrandino, an assistant professor in IUN's School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The study looked at the reasons for calls to get a better sense of the types of problems residents experience before seeking emergency care.

A separate study, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers insights on suicide rates in Indiana.

During an 11-year period, the suicide rate for middle-aged Hoosiers rose almost 54 percent, the CDC said. That's one of the highest increases in the nation. Suicide rose from the eighth-leading cause of death to fourth for that demographic.

It is not enough to merely analyze health data. There must be action on it, especially on serious public health issues.

The information on Indiana's suicide rate increasing, especially for middle-aged Hoosiers, and the map of Gary EMS calls show the need to both acquire and analyze public health data to determine how best to direct resources toward solutions.

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