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HHS Code-a-Thon Seeks Data-Driven Solutions to Opioid Epidemic


The agency will give up to 25 small teams access to extensive federal, state, and local data. Winning teams will receive a $10,000 prize.

This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is calling on computer programmers, public health experts, data scientists, researchers, and innovators to assist in shaping its strategy against drug abuse. The agency will give up to 25 teams of 3 to 5 people access to a host of federal, state, and local data sets in order to crunch out data-driven solutions to the opioid crisis.

Teams will compete to develop data-based programs in 3 different tracks: treatment, usage, and prevention. The treatment track relies on finding ways to improve access to treatment and recovery services; the usage track revolves around identifying at-risk patient populations and associated risk characteristics; and the prevention track focuses on predicting and analyzing the movement of opioid supplies, both legal and illegal.

The invite-only Code-a-Thon will be held at HHS headquarters from 1pm December 6th until 6pm December 7th. It will be preceded by a symposium on the morning of the 6th that will be streamed live on the HHS site.

The data available for the competition includes information from federal agencies typically not associated with healthcare. Participants will have access to unemployment and population statistics from the Department of Labor, loan data from the Federal Housing Finance Authority, and EMS information from the Department of Transportation, among other sets.

HHS will also release a range of its own datasets for use in the competition, including Medicare Part D opioid prescribing data, the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the Buprenorphine Treatment Practitioner Locator, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and more. On the day of the event, the agency says it will grant access to additional data from local, state, and private agencies.

Entries will be judged on design, potential for impact, technical achievement, and innovation. Winning entries will be innovative and have a “visually appealing” interface and demonstrable potential for impact and scalability. The winning entries for each track will receive a prize of $10,000.

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