How to use the Population Health Information Tool

How to use PHIT to access, download, and understand health-related data for your area.

Welcome to the Population Health Information Tool (PHIT)!

PHIT is a web-based tool that meets the public’s need for reliable and relevant public health data about their communities.

The webinar below goes over the background of PHIT and gives a live walk-through of the site and query building pages, as well as technical details that help PHIT users interpret the data output.

The following information on this page gives basic instructions on how to access and navigate PHIT, which are also covered in the webinar.

How to access PHIT data

You can access PHIT from any web browser, but it is optimized for viewing in Chrome.

Each dataset has a landing page that provides context and key information about how to interpret each dataset. These landing pages can be accessed in a few different ways: 

After scrolling through a dataset landing page, click on the blue "Explore data" button to access the dataset. 

  • A new page will open - this is your access point to the PHIT database.

Build your custom data query by clicking through the category, geography, and demography options. These pages can take a while to load because they are filtering large datasets as you go - be patient!

On the next pages after your click "Submit", your data will be displayed in tables and charts/maps: 

  • The map will have a legend that you can click in the top right corner that describes the color ranges that you see in the map. It has additional layers that you can toggle in the top left corner. 
  • The table at the top of the page will summarize the options you chose for your query.
  • The main data will be the second table, which will be below the maps/charts if those are present.
    • Different datasets have different columns. If you're confused, look at the footnotes, or the dataset page that linked to the dataset for more information. You can also contact DPH.PHIT@state.ma.us for help.
  • Below the main data will be a third table that has statewide comparisons.

You can click the buttons that say "Export to Excel/CSV" and a new window will open where your download will appear at the bottom of the window.

Important things to know:

  • Usually the data in PHIT are the most recent years that are available.

  • Validation processes take different amounts of time for different datasets. Data updates will occur at different times throughout the year. 

  • Each dataset has its own suppression rules, measures, caveats, etc. It is very important to read through the dataset landing pages before using PHIT data.

More info

Can't find what you need? There is a form and process in place for PHIT data requests. Click here to learn how to request additional PHIT data.

How to cite PHIT?

As a publicly available tool, we highly encourage the use of data included in PHIT. Below is the PHIT citation that can be used to properly reference any information you find helpful.

"Population Health Information Tool (PHIT)." Mass.govhttps://www.mass.gov/orgs/population-health-information-tool-phit.

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