The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Institute of Medicine (IoM) today co-hosted their second annual event focusing on innovative applications and services that harness the power of open data from HHS and other sources to help improve health and health care.

The Health Data Initiative Forum featured more than 45 new or updated solutions that harness the power of HHS and other federal data to help serve the needs of consumers, health care providers, employers, public health leaders, and policy makers.

"The Health Data Initiative Forum demonstrates our strong commitment to promoting innovative uses of data to advance health and health care in America," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "This initiative is helping consumers take control of their own health and health care by putting the right information at their fingertips, helping doctors and hospitals deliver better and safer care, helping employers promote health and wellness, helping mayors and county commissioners make better-informed decisions that improve the health of communities."

The forum also featured panel presentations from leaders in information technology development, privacy, venture capital financing, health care delivery systems, state and local government, and public health. Other federal cabinet secretaries participated in the promotion of the use of their agencies' data, including Environment Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson, who announced her agency's new effort to encourage innovators to leverage EPA data to help power useful solutions for the public.

The forum included nearly a dozen announcements of major new initiatives being launched using federally supplied health data. Among these announcements were the public and private sponsorship of new "challenges" to develop data-powered solutions that help improve health, including challenges issued by Walgreen's Pharmacy, Aetna Foundation, Sanofi-Aventis, and the National Cancer Institute.

Additional key announcements made at the forum included the University of Michigan's debut of the nation's first graduate program to focus on consumer health informatics; the launch of Start Up Health, a new seed accelerator/entrepreneur academy in New York City aimed at developing new health and wellness startups; ESRI's release of a new public community health analytics tool called Community Analyst; and an upcoming "invent-a-thon" focused on developing nursing homes of the future, hosted by Johns Hopkins University and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.

Todd Park, HHS chief technology officer, noted, "HHS is extremely excited about the progress that is being made by the many companies, entrepreneurs, and organizations that are here today contributing to the evolution of a vibrant health data ecosystem." The meeting concluded with the announcement of a new consortium to support the health data ecosystem announced by Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For the past 18 months, HHS has engaged in a major effort to both make its vast array of data resources ever more accessible to the public and also actively promote the development of applications and services utilizing HHS data by innovators across the country. Earlier in the year, HHS announced the launch of two major new data resources for the innovator community: the Health Indicators Warehouse, providing detailed data on over 1100 indicators of community health and health care performance, and, a "one-stop" resource containing a comprehensive inventory of available health-related data sets from HHS and other agencies along with other useful tools for data innovators.

At the forum, Secretary Sebelius committed HHS to continue to accelerate its efforts to liberate data and promote its use.