Meet the Dashboard: Dr. Marc Gourevitch, Lead Investigator

Jul. 26, 2018

Miriam Gofine

This week, we launch “Meet the Dashboard”, a series of interviews with the faculty and staff who work on bringing the Dashboard to users. Today, we introduce Dr. Marc Gourevitch, Lead Investigator of City Health Dashboard and Chair of NYU School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health.

CHDB: You, Dr. Jessica Athens (the Dashboard’s Director of Metrics and Analytics), Dr. Neil Kleiman (Co-Primary Investigator, City Policy/Partnerships), and Dr. Lorna Thorpe (Co-Primary Investigator, Methods) started working on the City Health Dashboard back in spring 2015. What was the original inspiration for the idea?

MG: The original inspiration really comes from reports back from conversations with city mayors that improving health wasn’t high on their agendas because they didn’t have good data on health in their communities. Neil Kleiman, working with the National Resource Network, was interacting with leaders of many economically distressed US cities. Asking about where health improvement ranked on their list of top policy priorities, Neil was often told that while data on other key indicators (e.g., housing, transportation, unemployment) were readily available at the city level, rigorous and timely data on health and health determinants were not. Addressing that gap, with a view towards helping galvanize priority-setting and action-taking at the city and community level, was the original challenge we took up in creating the Dashboard.

CHDB: You wear many hats as the founding Chair of the Department of Population Health at the NYU School of Medicine. Aside from the Dashboard, what other responsibilities do you carry within DPH?

MG: In leading DPH, I’m working to build, strengthen and sustain an effective and wide-ranging initiative to improve population health and health equity. On some days, it’s clear that this is in fact part of a broader movement to bridge medicine and public health, and to increase attention to non-clinical determinants of health on the part of healthcare and society at large. Actually running the department requires attention to recruiting, budget, mentorship and career development, partnership building, communications, diversity and inclusion, morale, fundraising, institutional connections – all part of a week’s work!

CHDB: What draws you to a career in public health?

MG: Scale. Clinical medicine is certainly profound – there is no equivalent to helping the person in front of you prevent and/or effectively manage and minimize the burden of disease, pain and disability. But public health offers the opportunity to improve population health and health equity on a broad scale. That has always been compelling for me.

CHDB: Work on the scaled-up City Health Dashboard began in May 2017. Reflecting on the past year, what surprised you most about the process? What’s one lesson you’ve learned?

MG: If you are developing a national resource and hope it will be used by thousands of people to catalyze important work in improving health and health equity, you have a responsibility to make it absolutely excellent!  Rigorous, user-friendly, very clear and understandable, timely. But meeting that goal successfully requires a very great deal of work and attention! I’ve been surprised by just how extensive and intensive the preparation process has been. The lesson: there’s nothing a fabulous team can’t accomplish!

CHDB: The Dashboard equips a diverse audience of users with tools to better understand their communities and create healthier neighborhoods. Is there a use of the Dashboard by a community or organization that particularly excites you?

MG: We’ve seen great work in our pilot cities – Waco, Providence, Flint and Kansas City, KS. And now, since going live nationally, we’ve seen many other cities begin to engage. Lake Charles, LA has started using the data to support grant applications. They’ve been able to dig into the Dashboard data to paint a very detailed picture of residents and how health and social issues manifest within specific neighborhoods. Richmond, CA has also begun exploring how the Dashboard can support the city’s cross-departmental Health in All Policies initiative.

CHDB: How do you see the Dashboard impacting communities over the coming months? The coming years?

MG: In the months and years ahead, I’m looking forward to communities being able to say: “The Dashboard made visible to us the key health issues in our neighborhood. It helped us set priorities and initiate action, and already we’ve been able to demonstrate a measurable improvement.”

CHDB: Which Dashboard metric are you most passionate about? Why?

MG: That’s a tough one! There are many, really, but today I’ll pick opioid-associated mortality. I spent the first half of my career with a strong focus on increasing drug users’ access to treatment for their substance use and for their physical and mental health conditions. So much of the harm from opioid use can be averted through sound policy-making, more effective prevention strategies and better access to effective medication-assisted treatment. So this set of issues is always on my radar.

CHDB: How do you hope to see the Dashboard develop in the future?

MG: I hope the Dashboard will propel improvements in urban population health and health equity for years to come, becoming a go-to resource for cities and communities across the nation. I expect we’ll see new measures, tools and resources on the website, greater ease in downloading data from the site, and improved links to effective policies. In short, much to look forward to!

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