Pacific Health Analytics Collaborative

Now is as good as any time

Launching a blog during a global pandemic may seem unusual, but this pandemic has made clear that now is as good as any. Amidst this coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the need for timely, relevant, local information is greater than ever — for greater coordination and a more effective response.

The work that we do at the Pacific Health Analytics Collaborative (PHAC) at its core involves the rigorous generation of knowledge, information, and insights to inform decisions affecting policies and programs, with a deliberate arc towards health equity.

Our work is at the intersection of data analytics, substance use and behavioral health, and health systems. In distressing times of economic recession and budget cuts, we need to ensure that the system of care for the most vulnerable populations in our community continue especially amidst the disruptions of this outbreak. More than ever, a high-performing system requires timely analytics and information.

We need to plan, prepare, and mitigate the economic fall-out and long-run psychological and social impacts of this pandemic. Inspired by the work of and our partnership with the BHHSURG, we at the university also cannot ignore the impacts of the unemployment resulting from a tourist-dependent economy brought to its knees. What policies and programs are highly cost-effective in addressing some of the behavioral health dimensions of a national emergency and major recession? What lessons can we learn from other states and countries to make better decisions locally?

A nimble and collaborative team, PHAC comprises committed researchers and enthusiastic students from all backgrounds keen to develop and use their skills for the greater social good. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more about our work in the hopes that our humble team at a public university can be made more relevant and impactful. We also wish to bridge the gap between ‘town’ and ‘gown’ — the downtown decision makers and the academic gowns and “ivory tower”, bridging public good with public knowledge. We invite all who wish to join us to apply to volunteer or explore opportunities with PHAC.

I can’t write a blog without giving kudos to my previous employer, Center for Global Development (CGD), a leading think tank on development and poverty based in Washington, DC. It was at CGD that I had the good fortune to learn from Amanda Glassman, Michael Clemens, Justin Sandefur, and many other brilliant colleagues and their “big ideas”. CGD provided me a way to channel my dissatisfaction with the mere collection of knowledge. I’ve been a little quiet in recent years while I was getting tenure, but I’m hoping to tap into my CGD spine and to build a platform to amplify our collective voices and words to make a positive difference.

I also want to give a shout-out to the UH Social Science Research Institute Telecommunications and Social Informatics Program (TASI) / Pacific Health Informatics Data Center (PHIDC). My time spent learning and working with them in the past few years focused on the All Payer Claims Database and other areas both grounded and inspired me about the ways in which public universities can effectively partner with public agencies. Our team at PHAC has much to learn from TASI/PHIDC.

Finally, I want to give my biggest thanks to the BHHSURG and the leadership of the Department of Health Behavioral Health Administration, Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness, and Department of Human Services Homeless Programs Office. BHHSURG has convinced me that state agencies are filled with incredibly nimble, dedicated, tireless servants of the public good and that when we work together as one, we can do so much more than in our separate silos. Without their support, our work at PHAC would not be possible, so we are very grateful.

Pūpūkahi i holomua (Unite to move forward)

Fan is the director of the Pacific Health Analytics Collaborative and an associate professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa