Improving Access to Older Adult Health Data for Timely Use Amid COVID-19 and Beyond

Today marks the launch of the Older Adults Health Data Collection – a new resource cataloging over 200 Federal datasets previously available on Data.gov related to the health of older Americans. This centralized location will assist experts from academia, industry, government, civil society, and the public in accessing datasets from various Federal agencies and across a range of health-related issues (e.g. health status, health risks and behaviors, and health care) to advance our collective knowledge and understanding of the health of older adults.

Analyzing data on the older adult population in the time periods before, during, and after the pandemic is an important step to gaining a better understanding of both the health of this age group as well the immediate and long-term impacts of the pandemic. The Older Adults Health Data Collection contains datasets that capture outcomes directly related to COVID-19 as well as others that do not, and the number of COVID-19 related datasets in the collection is anticipated to grow over time. Datasets without COVID-19-specific data elements still provide important context on the health of older adults before the pandemic and are likely to incorporate COVID-19 data elements in their data collection procedures in the months and years to come.

Demographic trends underscore just how vital it will be to understand this growing population group. By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 years and older. Over the next 40 years, the number of Americans 65 years and older will almost double.1 COVID-19 has also significantly impacted this age group, as underscored by evidence that older adults have experienced the highest hospitalization and morbidity rates from the pandemic.2 This is partly the result of older adults having high rates of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and cancer, which are the Nation’s leading drivers of illness, disability, deaths, and health care costs. 

Projected number of older adults in the United States1 Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)–associated hospitalization rates2
   


This new resource aligns with the intent of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 and directives in the Federal Data Strategy 2020 Action Plan, both of which encourage increased public access to Government data, collaboration with non-Government entities, interagency collaboration, and protection of data security and confidentiality.  This data collection also supports the efforts of the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics, which aims to improve the quality and utility of data on the aging population.  Two of the Aging Forum’s goals include encouraging cross-national research on the aging population and promoting communication among data producers, researchers, and public policymakers. Additional non-health and non-Federal datasets related to older adults are available at agingstats.gov.

As the first national open data site, Data.gov is the ideal platform to provide a wide variety of stakeholders with access to the Older Adults Health Data Collection. Data in this collection has been made available in open formats while ensuring privacy and security, consistent with all applicable laws, regulations, and policies governing data use, disclosure, and sharing. By reducing the time spent searching for data on the health of older adults from hours to seconds, the Older Adults Health Data Collection serves as a helpful resource to put Federal data to work on behalf of Americans.

To access the Older Adults Health Data Collection, follow this link: https://catalog.data.gov/group/older-adults-health-data

Sources

  1. U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 National Population Projections.
  2. Garg S, Kim L, Whitaker M, et al. Hospitalization Rates and Characteristics of Patients Hospitalized with Laboratory-Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 — COVID-NET, 14 States, March 1–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:458–4  64. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6915e3

 

Vijeth Iyengar, PhD, is a Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Mark C. Bicket, MD, PhD, is a White House Fellow at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

 

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