Inviting the Developer Community to Explore HHS Data Assets though Codecademy

In the early 2014, the Health Indicators Warehouse staff developed a series of short lessons for developers new to using Application Programming Interfaces (API) and to educate them about accessing data though the HIW’s web services.  An API is a defined set of programming instructions allowing web-based interaction between two systems and their previously separate databases.  The open structure of an API allows users to have controlled access to data which will foster innovative uses.

We have posted our basic API lessons to Codecademy.  Codecademy is an education company building, in their words, “the first truly net native education”, taking as inspiration the many ways the Internet has allowed people to rethink old ways of doing things and applying those lessons to teaching programming.  Soon these lessons will also be available on the HIW site.

The HIW lessons follow a simple logic path for someone just beginning to explore the possibilities of machine-to-machine communication and data use.  The first lesson walks through the basic steps needed to connect to the HIW API.  Building on this, the second lesson teaches how to locate and retrieve a specific indicator from the HIW database.  Lesson three adds the possibility of interactive user experience by demonstrating how to let the user choose what data they wish to retrieve.  Finally, lessons four and five offer more elaborate examples of locating, retrieving, and using data from HIW.  We will continue to develop more lessons to help broaden the skills and deepen the knowledge in the developer community using web services to tab into the vast federal data resources.

The HIW staff hope that these lessons will encourage more and broader use of the website as well as promote further development of innovative APIs for accessing other federal data resources.