Health Department Launches New Center to Enhance the Agency’s Data and Analytics Capacity

The Center for Population Health Data Science will strengthen citywide population health surveillance by better linking public health, healthcare, and social service data to fully characterize and improve the health of New Yorkers.

DOHMH has appointed Mamta Parakh the inaugural Center Director and as Chief Population Health and Data Officer and Gretchen Van Wye as Deputy Director and as the agency’s Chief Epidemiologist

October 24, 2023 — The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene today launched a new Center for Population Health Data Science. The Center will catalyze critical internal work and enable the agency, in its role as the City’s health strategist, to make progress toward linking public health, healthcare, and social service data.

“Data is much more than numbers on a page,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Data sounds alarms, spurs action, and drives planning, programs, and policy in health. It is our superpower in public health, and has quite literally, saved lives. We learned during COVID-19 that we must build on and accelerate our citywide public health data infrastructure, and this is the first step. I am so proud to launch this Center and to have two passionate, experienced, and knowledgeable leaders, in Mamta and Gretchen, at the helm.”

“New York City’s ability to effectively harness the power of data is critical to make timely, well-informed decisions that improve the health and well-being of all New Yorkers,” said New York City Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser. “I congratulate DOHMH and Commissioner Vasan on the launch of this Center and support their data-driven efforts to keep our city healthy.”

The city’s vision is to build a citywide population health data system to advance understanding, excellence, action, leadership; that accounts for the whole of data modernization, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; meets users’ needs and advances equity; and drives planning, programming, and policy across New York City. Over time the Center initiative aims to develop consistency, compatibility, and interoperability so that myriad types of data, whether from routine clinical care to public health surveillance activities to community programs, can be shared, matched, and used to advance citywide population health goals and to combat the central challenge of declining and inequitable life expectancy in New York City. The Center will focus on communicable diseases and outbreaks as a part of emergency preparedness and response readiness, but also chronic health conditions and mental health concerns that are impacting lifespan and health span in New York City.

The creation of the Center builds on our strengths in epidemiology and analytics and demonstrates DOHMH’s commitment to the development of a new public health data infrastructure and the agency’s leadership in this space. Amongst the Center’s foci will be to strengthen and build new capabilities, including:

  • Data visualization and communication;
  • Forecasting and modeling;
  • Matching and analysis of different data streams
  • Data governance, privacy, and interoperability, and
  • Leveraging Artificial Intelligence in support of the recent citywide Artificial Intelligence strategy released by Office of Technology and Innovation.

Initially the Center will house the Division of Epidemiology and direct all workstreams within the Data Modernization Initiative, with further development occurring in phases.

The Center will be directed by Mamta Parakh who will serve as DOHMH’s inaugural Chief Population Health and Data Officer. Mamta comes to DOHMH with 20 years of experience in health tech, life sciences, and other tech sectors. Most recently, she served as Vice President and Head of Product Management and Data Products at Wider Circle, a national Public Benefit Corporation that develops community-based health and social support networks for underserved Medicare and Medicaid members. During her time at Wider Circle, she launched key tools that enabled community-level organizing and dialogue, allowing thousands of people to receive support from peers through technology. Before that she served in numerous leadership roles at Quartet Health, an organization with a mission to better integrate mental and physical health care and improve access to high quality mental health care. While at Quartet, she built a suite of value-based care and network adequacy analytics products. Mamta also held several roles at tech and life sciences companies working on decision support and diagnostic development platforms, and worked in a global management consulting firm, where she focused on life sciences consulting. She holds a M.S. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Technology degree for the Indian Institute of Technology.

Gretchen Van Wye will serve as the Deputy Director of the Center and as the agency’s Chief Epidemiologist. Gretchen has been with DOHMH since 2005, starting out as the Director of Community Epidemiology in the Bureau of Epidemiology Services. Since then, she served in a variety of roles including the Director of Research, Evaluation, and Planning for the Harlem District Public Health Office; the Director of NYC Communities Putting Prevention to Work; the Director of Operations and Planning in the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control; and the Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of Vital Statistics and the City Registrar. Most recently, she has served as the Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Epidemiology, where she co-led the agency’s Data Modernization Initiative and the agency’s burgeoning AI strategy. Gretchen also serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, where she teaches and supports student research in health literacy, obesity, and vital records and statistics. She received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology and Public Health from Yale University, her M.A. in Health Communication from the University of Georgia, and her B.A. from The Pennsylvania State University.

"I am honored to play a part in shaping New York City's investment in foundational data capabilities to strengthen its public health system," said Center Director and as Chief Population Health and Data Officer Mamta Parakh. "I look forward to supporting the Center for Population Health Data Science in its mission to ensure an informed, responsive, and equitable healthcare system for all New Yorkers."

“Every data point tells a story,” said Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Gretchen Van Wye. “I am honored to help tell the data stories that can improve the health and lives of New Yorkers. I am delighted to serve in this role and look forward to what this new center will bring to the city.”

“Investing in and strengthening data systems so they are real-time, accurate, and well analyzed and will save lives,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and former New York City Health Commissioner. “With better data driving faster detection and more effective responses to health threats, we can save lives and save money.”

“As the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene continues its effort to partner with academic institutions as well as with communities around New York City, we are fully supportive of this new initiative that intends to create reliable sources of information addressing health and disease around the City in real time,” said Dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, MBBCh, MD, MPH. “Access to data strengthens the partnership between the DOHMH and all New Yorkers, deepening their trust and opening doors for new and dynamic partnerships towards a healthier New York.”

“The big challenge is to turn our mountains of data into actual insights that catalyze improvements,” said Marc Gourevitch, MD, MPH, Chair of the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health. “Ambitious goals, like reversing the decline in life expectancy, require integration and analysis of data from diverse sources and sectors to pinpoint where new initiatives and investments will yield greatest impact. Building on the Department’s many strengths in this domain, the timely effort being announced today represents a significant step in charting the best course forward for health and health equity in New York City.”

“New York City’s Department of Health is consistently a leader in the science and practice of preventing disease and injury and improving New Yorkers’ health,” Linda P. Fried, M.D., M.P.H., Dean of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “This leap in data and analysis capabilities will serve us well in providing the essential cutting-edge guidance as to how to protect and improve the health of all New Yorkers.”

“It is so exciting to see the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launch this new center and embark on a critical journey to modernize its systems – to get better data faster and be able to use it to protect the public’s health, to integrate different kinds of information such as social services and health data, and to leverage these new insights to improve health equity for all New Yorkers,” said Annie Fine, MD, Chief Science and Surveillance Officer for the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. “Support for the Center comes in part from the federally funded Data Modernization Initiative, a program launched in 2019 by the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists in coalition with other national organizations, and currently managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has long used data effectively to support health, but with newer technology and expertise in data science, epidemiology and population health, actions and interventions to improve health can be faster and even more effective, and can address a wide range of health conditions.”



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