Bing Health Map Shows Promise of Open Government Data

The Health team at Bing used public data to create a Health Map application (requires Silverlight) that lets users visualize a number of health indicators, such as obesity and premature births, by U.S. county.

With a glance at the map, one can see where the selected indicator is the biggest problem--something that might not be as obvious with the data alone. This visualization is one more reason to be excited about the open government data initiatives we've seen over the last few years.

Bing partnered with the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Institute of Medicine to get at the data. It's unclear whether the same set is available to developers via HHS or However, HHS does have several datasets as part of its Open Government Plan. There's more information about the partnership on the Bing Blog.

Bing Maps evangelist Chris Pendleton gives some technical details about the project and explains how it works:

Bing Health Maps is very straightforward to use - (1) Select a state and, (2) Select a Community Health Indicator. The map will re-center on the respective state and color-code the counties within that state based on unit-based reporting. You can select health indicators such as Birth Indicators (low birth weight, premature births, births to women under 18, etc.); Death Measures (homicide, lung cancer, stroke, etc.) or Health Risk Factors (obesity, smokers, high blood pressure, etc.). If the opacity doesn’t suit your fancy there's a slider to increase or decrease it.

SearchEngineLand compares Bing's health map to one released by Google using similar data, noting that "both have ambitious electronic health records initiatives."

Be sure to read the next Government article: Realtime Underground Feed Released Then Removed