Each year, the Office of HIV Planning (OHP) produces an Epidemiologic Profile, or “epi profile,” a gigantic PDF document around 400 pages long containing general population data about Philadelphia and its eight surrounding counties. The profile includes risk data, demographic information, HIV/AIDS statistics, unmet needs, and how existing services are being used. While a shorter summary of the data is available in an executive summary, the data within the document can be difficult to access in it’s PDF format.
Briana Morgan, a health planner and website coordinator at OHP, decided to work on “freeing” the data and making it more accessible to not only her office, but other organizations as well.
“Just before Christmas last year, Brianna came to a Code for Philly meet-up and broadly described the frustrations she was having,” said Ben Novack, one of the Code for Philly members working on the project.
According to the GitHub (an open source program for collaboration on software and documentation projects) page for the project, OHP would like to provide the public with access to the full data-sets used in developing the epi profile, beginning by uploading the source files to the web. The data is currently stored in a PDF because that’s what OHP’s federal funders require. Part of the reason OHP has the responsibility of compiling this document is that this data isn’t available all together anywhere else.
“What that means is a lot of local public service agencies, nonprofits, and even some people from the city health department use that document for grant-writing purposes. They use the data to figure out where to provide services, where their target populations live, what their needs are,” said Morgan. “So if there’s a way to provide that information to them in a way that is not just easier for them to use but also more appropriate for their needs–that’s the whole point.”
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The project is finally making significant progress thanks to a team of Girl Develop It Philly‘s Summer of Open Source Code fellows and mentors being able to dedicate more time to it, including mentor and Ruby on Rails developer Chad Ostrowski. Jen Voss, another mentor, has also worked on a lot of the front end development.
Novack and Morgan said that in a couple of months, they hope to be doing outreach for the project and getting the word out about how other organizations can use it.-30-
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