In a new collaborative initiative called Open Data for Health, researchers will lead multidisciplinary teams of University of Pennsylvania students on a mission to improve public health through the use of open data.

Through this initiative, researchers can propose to use currently available datasets, or request the release of additional data from City government, that would support their project.

Over the past several years, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (ODDT) has released and maintained a trove of health-related data. Now, the City of Philadelphia, geospatial technology firm Azavea, and Penn Medicine’s Center for Health Care Innovation (CHCI) are piloting the Open Data for Health program to put that data to use in improving health delivery and public health outcomes.

“This exciting collaboration between city government, a local business, and an academic institution can simultaneously achieve multiple goals: enhance healthcare delivery and public health outcomes while creating applied educational opportunities for students, and giving back to local communities by creating tools that support their well-being,” said Kistine Carolan, Data Services Manager for ODDT. 

Through this partnership, not only will health data be shared but it will also be seen all the way to a meaningful use. The fall/spring student projects will unfold in three phases: propose, design, then build.

First, researchers submit a proposal to CHCI, offering a solution to a public health problem and the datasets needed to address it. CHCI will notify applicants in August whose proposals are accepted and the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation will work to release needed datasets.

In September, CHCI will match students with projects and assist teams in exploring problem areas and designing potential solutions.

During the spring semester, Penn students focused on engineering, medicine, nursing, or public health can join teams to build the data-driven project, such as a website or mobile app.

The project prototypes will be tested for effectiveness with the population segments for which they are designed. If the dataset was previously unreleased, ODDT will also share it publicly on

Want to lead a multidisciplinary team of health-focused and engineering students? Submit a proposal. The deadline to apply has recently been extended to July 28.  Read the FAQs for more information.