Background

The Connect2HealthFCC Task Force’s platform Mapping Broadband Health in America 2023 allows users to visualize, intersect, and analyze broadband and health data at the national, state and county levels – informing policy and program prescriptions, future innovations, and investment decisions. This data visualization tool is especially timely given the recent COVID-19 national public health emergency, when telehealth became increasingly critical to meeting the needs of Americans, especially those residing in rural areas. This experience shifted the way in which many Americans access healthcare.

The 2023 release reflects an important expansion and update of the platform. In response to congressional requests, the Task Force added data on maternal health and drug abuse. Additionally, the platform now provides more advanced visualizations and analytic functionalities. The updated architecture and methodology allow users greater flexibility and control, as the broadband health space evolves. Specifically, the “Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act” that was signed into law on December 20th, 2022 directs the FCC to “incorporate publicly available data on maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity, including for not less than 1 year postpartum” into its mapping platform, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This timely and deceptively simple request spawned a consultative process with the CDC to identify maternal health data to incorporate into the mapping platform. It initiated a concentrated effort to incorporate the required data in a way that enables meaningful visualizations and insights for stakeholders while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of women. The resulting conceptual framework for visualizing broadband and maternal health data is discussed in Focus on Maternal Health (opens new window).

In releasing this update, we recognize the increasingly important role of broadband in health. We are also mindful that:

Interact with and query the platform:

The Mapping Broadband Health in America 2023 platform provides an interactive experience, showing various pictures of the intersection between broadband connectivity and health for counties and states in the U.S. Users can generate customized maps that show broadband access, Internet adoption, and Internet speed intersected with various health outcomes and risk factors (e.g., maternal mortality, severe maternal morbidity, maternity care deserts, obesity, diabetes, physician access, opioid-related mortality, and opioid prescription rates) in urban and rural areas.

These maps can be used by both public and private sectors, and local communities, to identify opportunities and gaps in connected care.

You can explore questions like:

  • What is the relationship between broadband connectivity and health
  • Where can telehealth and other broadband-enabled solutions be leveraged now to address high maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity in new and novel ways?
  • How do rural and urban areas compare on broadband connectivity and health?
  • Where do broadband connectivity and maternal health needs coincide?
  • What is the broadband picture in maternity care deserts?
  • Where are the gaps and opportunities for telehealth, to lock in and increase gains in treating chronic conditions and mental health conditions – many of which are themselves risk factors for maternal health?
  • What is the maternal health, chronic disease, or opioids picture in higher vs. lower connectivity areas?
  • Where can existing broadband infrastructure be leveraged now – by policymakers, entrepreneurs, or other stakeholders – to help address physician shortages, high levels of maternal health need, or the ongoing opioid crisis?
  • Where do broadband infrastructure gaps and poor health outcomes coincide – both at the national and county level – in order to better target and prioritize marketplace solutions and private sector investment?

Key map features:

  • Interactive data visualization
  • Easily-accessible statistics about connectivity and health
  • Customizable zoom levels you can set to state or county
  • Unique URLs for each customized map to facilitate sharing and collaboration
  • Support of open government and open data initiatives through APIs and downloadable data sets

Potential benefits and uses:

  • The maps can help tailor investment and “right-size” public-private partnerships.
  • The maps will be a valuable tool for highlighting areas that might require special attention. They will help stakeholders identify the types of collaborations – public/private, network/applications, and outreach/education – that may be needed to improve connectivity and health.
  • For the FCC and other government agencies, the maps can be used to characterize regions, patterns, and gaps to inform policy, regulatory actions, or reforms.
  • For the private sector, the maps can identify areas where entrepreneurial opportunities for enabling consumer health through broadband exist now.
  • Local communities may find the maps helpful as they allocate resources and focus efforts on leveraging broadband connectivity for health.
  • Over time and with periodic data updates, the maps could also be used to assess continued progress in the connected health space.

Data sources:

The fixed broadband data in the platform comes from the Commission’s Form 477 data (opens new window) program that collects data on residential fixed broadband deployment and residential fixed Internet subscribership. Through Form 477, facilities-based broadband providers submit information to the FCC about where they offer and have subscribers to Internet access services over 200 kilobits per second (kbps) in at least one direction. The broadband data in the platform was released in September 2020 and covers data submissions as of June 2019. The Commission calculates broadband access statistics using U.S. Census Bureau block-level population and household estimates data.

Maternal and opioid-related mortality data is from CDC WONDER (opens new window) – the Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research – an integrated information and communication system for public health developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The severe maternal morbidity data come from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Fast Stats (opens new window) on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website. Opioid prescriptions data comes from the CDC’s U.S. Opioid Dispensing Rate Maps (opens new window). The chronic disease data is drawn from the 2021 release of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Initiative County Health Rankings & Roadmap (opens new window) program (which reflects data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, American Medical Association, and other primary sources). Additional demographic data is from the U.S. Census Bureau, among other sources. Learn more about the data and methodology (opens new window).

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