Learn about the data platform

About the Big Cities Health Inventory

The Big Cities Health Inventory (BCHI) data platform contains over 100,000 data points reflecting health in the 35 Big Cities Health Coalition member cities. The platform is a snapshot of urban public health and allows for relative comparability across major urban centers in the US.

The 35 cities are among the country’s largest, most urban cities. The public health officials from these metropolitan health departments are responsible for the health and well-being of approximately 20 percent of our country’s population.

Effective public health practice and policymaking depend on having reliable and timely health information. The city-specific data in the inventory provides a standardized data collection hub that can help direct city health policies and priorities – and serve as an important snapshot for policymakers at all levels of government.

The BCHI data platform includes data from both the cities themselves and from publicly available sources. The data is organized by city, by indicator, and by year. In some cases, data are available specific to gender and race/ethnic groups.

Frequently Asked Questions

What metrics are included in the data platform?

The BCHI data platform includes over 100 metrics related to health, which encompass 11 broad categories of public health importance:

  • Life Expectancy and Deaths
  • Access to Health Services
  • Mental Health and Substance Use
  • Chronic Health Conditions
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Violence and Injury
  • Demographics
  • Physical and Built Environment
  • Social and Economic Factors
  • Poisoning

These metrics were chosen based on their relationship to the leading causes of disease and death in the United States and their role in creating healthier, safer communities. The BCHI indicators further reflect priorities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Healthy People 2030 goals, CDC’s Winnable Battles, interest among BCHC members, or are included due to their relevance to urban health more generally. The metrics also reflect demographic and socioeconomic inequities or environmental determinants of health and can provide benchmarks for new policy-relevant disparities and trends. As changes in disease burden and priorities have occurred over the years, so have indicators included in the data platform.

The city-specific data in the BCHI can help direct city health policies and priorities and allows for relative comparability across city jurisdictions. The data metrics can be organized by city, by indicator, and sorted by year, race/ethnicity and sex.

Most data in the platform comes from public sources. Other data were provided by city health departments. Not all health departments were able to provide data for all metrics and, in cases where denominators were too small, certain rates for subpopulations are not displayed. When available, race and ethnicity categories and sex are shown. If data for a metric was not provided or is not currently available, it is indicated in the platform. 

To explore COVID-19 data in member cities, visit the COVID-19 Health Inequities in Cities Dashboard.

What data years are available?

The platform includes data for the years 2010 – 2020. However, not all years for all cities are available in the platform, and more recent data are prioritized. The data is updated on a rolling basis, when new data is accessible it is added to the platform. If data for a specific year is not currently available, it is indicated in the platform.

Where do the data come from?

Data points come from cities themselves and from publicly available datasets. In the US, public health agencies are responsible for regularly collecting and analyzing data on health problems and opportunities, and for making such data publicly available. Data are collected at the state, county, and city levels, as well as through a number of federally run surveys such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). The BCHI uses a combination of data sources, from data provided directly from health departments to data from public health agencies. Thank you to the BCHC member cities for contributing to this effort. 

Data sources were chosen based on the practicability of data acquisition, availability for all member cities, and data availability for the most recent years. Data from the health departments and sources which align with city preferences were prioritized. 

For more information on data sources, please visit the project’s Technical Documentation 

How are cities defined?

Where possible the database represents the census places which follow geographic boundaries for cities. For some city jurisdictions and metrics we have provided county level data due to availability, and/or because the city accounts for most of the county population. This is footnoted where applicable. As city-specific data becomes more available, it may replace county proxies.  

For more information, please visit the project’s Technical Documentation. 

Where can I find details on the metrics and methodology?

For more information on data metrics and methodology, please visit the project’s Technical Documentation.

How can I use this data and how do I cite the platform?

This open access data can be used in a variety of settings and features downloadable and shareable charts and data points. Additionally, some datasets are available for download as a csv file. These data can be analyzed to inform public health programs, used for research, or for grant applications, among other uses. 

When using data, charts or images from the platform, please reference the platform as follows: Big Cities Health Inventory Data Platform. Big Cities Health Coalition. Bigcitieshealthdata.org accessed [date]. 

We encourage you to share examples or stories of how you are using this data, please tag @bigcitieshealth. 

How is the data platform managed and funded?

The Big Cities Health Inventory data platform initially developed from the work of big city epidemiologists who published chart books on a somewhat regular basis to share information with their peers in other jurisdictions. In 2015, the BCHI data platform was launched by BCHC with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This most recent iteration of the BCHI was developed, and is now maintained, by the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative at the Dornsife School of Public Health in partnership with the Big Cities Health CoalitionThe data inventory is primarily supported by the CDC through their cooperative agreement (5U38OT000172-03) with the National Association of County and City Health Officials. BCHC staff time on this work is supported by the de Beaumont Foundation. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the funders.