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NY Health Information Exchange Strives to Mitigate Childhood Obesity

A NY regional health information exchange developed a public health tool that focuses on childhood obesity and utilizes social determinants of health.

Rochester RHIO, a New York-based regional health information exchange (HIE), and its local partners developed a childhood obesity tool to boost public health and aid communities where childhood obesity is most prevalent, according to an emailed press release.

Nineteen percent of children residing in the Finger Lakes Region are at or above the 95th percentile of childhood obesity, according to the most recent Community Health Indicators Report. Furthermore, the childhood obesity rate in that region ranges from 17 percent to 26 percent.

The tool leverages data from Rochester RHIO for local health initiatives to shape future investment. Healthcare organizations and individuals can utilize the tool to analyze and evaluate regional social determinants of health (SDOH) data and health outcomes.

The data also includes adult obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking statistics from the Rochester RHIO region in customizable maps and reports. Individual patient data is not available to the readers or research teams, the HIE noted.

“The ability to use electronic medical records for improving public health is a game changer, and our region is among the best in the United States at doing so,” Jill Eisenstein, RHIO president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“Health professionals know that being overweight in youth and adolescence can lead to significant problems in adulthood. Having access to this childhood obesity data is invaluable to help drive short- and long-term health improvement and reduce care, nutrition and other inequities,” Eisenstein continued.

Rochester RHIO is one of the eight qualified entities (QEs) that make up SHIN-NY. Health organizations can exchange patient health data such as medications, lab test results, care plans, procedures, and other key health information through RHIO’s service. Providers can offer a comprehensive view of patient health, spanning multiple care settings, facilities, and care teams.

Rochester RHIO also connects thousands of providers and healthcare organizations in the Finger Lakes area. This connection allows providers to view patient data in real-time.

“A family’s ability to support healthy weight for children is inextricably linked to social determinants of health: do they have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, are there safe places to play in the neighborhood, do work schedules allow for home cooked meals and time to eat together,” said Dina Faticone, director of community health and engagement at Common Ground Health.

“These childhood obesity measures will help us identify populations that are struggling, give us the hard data needed to drive public investment, and allow the region to track progress.”

Healthcare experts across the country are looking to utilize health IT and data exchange to put a lid on the nation’s obesity problem.

University of Rhode Island researchers recommended health systems integrate a dietary screening tool into all EHRs.

The study authors said healthcare teams do not always address diet quality during patient visits. The research team identified a lack of training and knowledge on the topic, a lack of time spent discussing nutrition during appointments, and a lack of integrated nutritional services in the EHR as barriers to diet-related conversations.

The study authors said an effective diet screening tool should include an evidence-based approach, the total dietary pattern, speed and efficiency, actionable steps to support patients, and the ability to track and monitor dietary change in real-time.

Although the research team did not recommend one specific tool, the group said clinicians, health IT specialists, dieticians, and lifestyle experts should come together to choose a specific one that fits their respective organization's EHR system and area.

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