New Online Tool Provides Health Snapshot of All 435 U.S. Congressional Districts

Researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, announced the Congressional District Health Dashboard (CDHD), a new online tool that provides critical health data for all 435 congressional districts and the District of Columbia. The dashboard contains 36 key measures of health, such as deaths from cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, and conditions that affect health, such as housing affordability and access to nutritious food. Until recently, most of this data was not available at the congressional district level, nor was it compiled in one location or readily available to the public.

Congressional District Health Dashboard data reveals geographic and racial and ethnic disparities in health and well-being across congressional districts in the United States. For example, people living in congressional districts in the 11 states that did not expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act were twice as likely to be uninsured compared to states that did have Medicaid coverage. In fact, residents of congressional districts in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas are on average nearly 3.5 times more likely to be uninsured than those in congressional districts in New England. On average, Hispanic residents have the highest uninsured rates in most congressional districts across the country.

“The Congressional District Health Dashboard will help fill the critical need for timely, rigorous, and actionable data that can inform evidence-based policymaking,” says Marc N. Gourevitch, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health and principal architect our initiative. “Now, policymakers, advocates, and others can tune into their specific congressional districts to identify opportunities and challenges that affect the health and well-being of all people they serve, regardless of income, race, or zip code.”

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The Congressional District Health Dashboard offers the ability to do the following:

  • Explore rigorous, nonpartisan data on health, education, poverty, and more by congressional district and compare these findings to state and national averages.
  • compare rates of select metrics among different racial and ethnic groups in the district
  • see a snapshot of any congressional district, with 36 measures compared to the national average, and district-specific population facts such as age and race and ethnicity.

The dashboard’s analysis of congressional district data also revealed these findings:

  • Across the congressional district, there is a large variation in some health outcomes including people reporting mental distress that ranges from 9 to 21 percent per district.
  • The rent burden is lowest in rural districts at 37 percent, and highest in districts along the coast (California, Northeast, and Florida) and urban congressional districts in general, at 50 percent.
  • Across the United States, deaths from cardiovascular disease were lower in suburban districts at 194 deaths per 100,000, compared to urban and rural counties at 215 and 225 deaths per 100,000, respectively.
  • Child poverty is lower in suburban districts at about 14 percent, and higher in urban and rural districts at 19 percent.
  • Broadband access is significantly lower in rural southern districts, where only 40 to 50 percent of households have high-speed internet compared to 80 to 90 percent in urban districts with strong broadband access.
  • Racial and ethnic disparities in low birth weight are observed across districts, with particularly stark disparities in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In more than three-quarters of these states’ districts, Black newborns are about twice as likely to be underweight at birth as White babies (along with other racial and ethnic groups), including all of South Carolina’s districts and five out of six Louisiana. district
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“This dashboard could be a game changer for health policy in the United States. By using local data, members of Congress and their staff can make more informed decisions about policies that affect the health of people, communities, and workplaces,” said Giridhar Mallya, MD, MSHP , senior policy officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Our health shouldn’t be determined by our congressional district, but this data clearly shows how far we have to go to address persistent inequality across the country. No matter who they are or where they live, all people in the United States deserve the opportunity to thrive.

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Overseen and regularly updated by a team of population health and policy experts, epidemiologists, and geospatial specialists, the Congressional District Health Dashboard website displays health measures and drivers through interactive maps, tables, and graphs. Data is obtained from federal sources and other data sets that adhere to strict data collection and analysis standards, including the US Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

A first-of-its-kind tool, the Congressional District Health Dashboard equips congressional staff, federal and state advocates, journalists, researchers, and others with data on health and conditions that affect health in every congressional district across the country, providing constituents. and the efforts of policy makers to take action and drive change. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the dashboard builds on the foundation of the City Health Dashboard and responds to requests for additional unbiased health and wellness data at the congressional district level.

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Sasha Valek
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