How does where you live impact your health? It’s a big question that requires an enormous amount of data – covering climate patterns, healthcare access, education quality, economic stability, hospital records and more. As we celebrate Earth Day today, we’re looking to shine a light on how much closer we are to answering this crucial question, and how groups may be disproportionately affected.
Earth Day Through the Years
For over 50 years, Earth Day has been a chance for environmentalists to come together for a healthier planet. It’s a day that unified groups passionate about everything from toxic waste cleanup to wildlife preservation. Now the world’s largest environmental movement, the first Earth Day in 1970 came at a time when the impacts of pollution were not widely understood by the public to have direct consequences on the health and lives of surrounding communities.
Fast forward to today, where climate change is broadly understood to be the challenge of our time. The devastating impact of climate change is not just an environmental issue; it’s a health issue. Pollution, wildfires, flooding, water quality, and more impact not only our surroundings, but our health. To highlight these health impacts, Truveta Research investigated the connection between asthma-driven trips to the Emergency Department (ED) and elevated air quality index. This question demonstrates the potential to leverage publicly available data in connection with Truveta data to answer questions about how external factors may influence our health. Check out the full post here.
Not an Even Playing Field
Unfortunately, some populations are adversely affected at a greater rate than others by the human-made of climate change. People with lower incomes are more likely to live near potentially hazardous sites such as manufacturing facilities, processing plants, and toxic landfills, leading to long-term exposure of pollutants. Just this month, HHS (Health and Human Services) announced new proposals aimed at reducing environmental hazards among low-income and historically marginalized communities.
While multiple studies have found elevated risks of cancer in areas close to EPA Superfund sites, the overall influence of these types of environmental factors on human health is difficult to study. We know this type of exposure can be damaging, but the currently available data is messy and fragmented. This data is generally excluded from the electronic health record, posing large challenges to researchers who want to understand the link between environmental exposures and human health. Here at Truveta, we’re working to help. By linking critical de-identified data sources, such as clinical data (including clinical notes, images, and genomics), socioeconomic factors, claims, and mortality, Truveta’s platform can empower researchers to study environmental effects on health across age, geography, race, ethnicity, gender, and social determinants of health attributes .
Commitment to Health Equity
At Truveta we are deeply committed to improving health equity outcomes. In January we announced our partnership with LexisNexis Risk Solutions to combine Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) data – such as access to transportation, food security, and educational attainment – to study the factors that are impacting care. This partnership will enable a broader view of the patient journey and provide insight into the socioeconomic factors that impact patient outcomes. The combined power of this data will lead to new clinical research possibilities, a better understanding of health inequities, and improved patient care.
Saving lives with data means being able to answer the right questions. As we look to the future where we have unlocked and connected data across our partners, we will be able to empower researchers to ask more complicated questions and discover more in-depth answers. Questions such as:
- Which zip codes suffer the most from water-related health impacts?
- What are the rates of heat-related illness over the last decade and how do they compare across demographic and socioeconomic attributes?
- How do emergency room visits for asthma and emphysema change with worsening air quality?
What questions do you have about how the environment impacts health outcomes?