Open Government, Health and Human Services and You
In an article just published on Nextgov, there is a good overview of the shifting sands in the Open Government agenda of the federal government. I’m quoted in the story because I have served as a volunteer auditor of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Open Government Plan and also am co-leading the evaluation efforts around the implementation of these plans (both activities through transparency watchdog group OpenTheGovernment.org). In my role as auditor, I have done my best to provide the kind of rigor and accountability that the public should demand of its government. The fact is that this administration has done more than pay lip service to openness by creating several key leadership functions in this area with the support of an executive order issued by the President to increase transparency, collaboration and participation.
Why is that important to health?
As I pointed out to HHS CTO Todd Park, many Americans more readily discover important disease and treatment information from the health encyclopedia online at the U.K. National Health Service when similar and often more comprehensive information sites in databases at the CDC, NIH, FDA, and the rest of the HHS alphabet soup. This is data and content we have paid for with our taxes and providing this information to the public is core to the mission of the agency. To his credit and his team’s credit, they have done much to find and uncover many valuable datasets as part of their first year’s plan. There is more to do. My honest opinion is that there is much work to be done not only on the government side of the equation but also on the public side. Consumers demand more and more insight into their diagnoses and treatments everyday. The information and expertise already paid for by these same citizens can be made more accessible and frankly, those passionate about this issue should demand it. Government institutions were not designed to work this way – so they will need help – our help to make these changes.
I congratulate the HHS team on getting their Plans into fighting shape and I honestly and genuinely hope that no momentum is lost in the transitions of power at the White House.