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Friday, July 1, 2022

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Opinion: ‘Numbers have the POWER’

Dupage County follows Bush Pandemic Playbook, 'Real-Time Clinical Surveillance' essential to protecting human health

Dupage County isn’t hiding weak-kneed behind HIPAA.

Here in Illinois, no other health organization has done quite the job at a local level like the Dupage County Health Department when it comes to providing data with ease in the COVID-19 crisis. With update charts daily, officials release a graphic chart of data regularly that puts all other County Health Departments to shame.  

Seriously, check this out right now. 

Taxpayers do have the right to know where a pandemic is in their own backyard after all.

The chart, now available on the Health Department’s website, not only shows gender and age of cases, but the number of cases per age group, growth charts of cases over time, a pie graph of gender breakdown, and most impressive, a breakdown of towns with the most cases. This is the data EVERY HEALTH DEPARTMENT across America and the World should be showcasing with such open arms of transparency.

Of course, not every Health Department has the staff to readily present such information at ease, or a website to support such an endeavor. That’s not to say they shouldn’t, and just stop with the ‘no one could’ve predicted this’ remarks. George W. Bush signed off on a full Pandemic Plan in May 2006, and page one of it has been ignored to this day

Tell me why?

In the Executive Summary, Chapter 6, Bush’s team details the importance of real-time clinical surveillance: 

“We will support local and national efforts to establish this capability by linking hospital and acute care health information systems with local public health departments, and advancing the development of the analytical tools necessary to interpret and act upon these data streams in real time.”

Has it though, at a National level? Not even Cook County has this sort of data public. The worst part, this plan was finalized in 2006! You can read President Bush’s full pandemic plan here.

That’s not to say other Health Departments have not attempted to be as transparent. Just this week, Will County Health Department officials released this dot chart to the Public showing where certain cases were grouped in areas, but this is 2020.

Citizens deserve more because if you like it or not, data rules decisions. Why do you think we stay on top of the numbers, to begin with? 

Decisions like ‘should I go to the store for a loaf of bread’ or ‘it’s okay to let my kids play basketball with their friends’ could be swayed for the day and more, further pushing home the gravity of the situation. Even if it’s just for one single mom, be it a trip to a park, or a night of take out, numbers affect people. 

Numbers that can save lives, be it case count, gender, or the actual town where positive cases are currently found.

So, Dupage County Health Department officials, thank you. Not for doing your job, but being the Health Department to set the bar for the people of the modern era, while simultaneously having the integrity and balls to say “this Community deserves the data.” 

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