Engaging Residents with Data to Improve Health in Durham and Milwaukee Neighborhoods

Data You Can Use   (Milwaukee)
DataWorks NC   (Durham)

August 2018 - October 2018

Two NNIP Partners are creatively engaging residents with data to improve neighborhood health conditions. In both cases, they combine rigorous data and new resources with on-the-ground insights. 

Our partner organization in Durham, DataWorks NC, is committed to combining quantitative indicators with qualitative insights.  They have recently collaborated with the Duke University Health System to receive aggregations of patient data from the Duke and Lincoln Community Health systems, estimated to cover 90 percent of the health contacts in the county.  The team is starting with an analysis of diabetes incidence, and plans to also analyze other conditions like chronic kidney disease, stroke, heart attack and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Since the data originates from Duke and Lincoln's patients, DataWorks believes the data belong to the residents and the health partnership must ensure the data outputs are accountable to residents in the neighborhoods most affected by these diseases. Duke Health has aggregated the data at the block group level to protect patient confidentiality and create useful indicators to share with the public. To identify drivers of health, DataWorks and partners have conducted four focus groups with participants from community programs and heath care providers.  They are also holding an ongoing series workshops with residents to facilitate consensus among neighbors about the key factors influencing health and to review data visualizations, illustrations and infographics to learn what works best to interpret and communicate health data. In each one, they include a health educator from the public health department to help build relationships with existing community health resources. After gathering this information, Data Works then will develop metrics and materials on the state of community health and the drivers behind the indicators.

Data You Can Use, our partner organization in Milwaukee, sees itself as a link between those who have data and those who need data. Its staff began helping a small group of people interested in integrating health data into their neighborhood improvement efforts. These people working in housing and crime knew that health had an impact on their issues and their issues had an impact on health. But they didn't know where to find the data or how to talk about health in the context of their neighborhoods. Recognizing the need for more connections, Data You Can Use formed the Health Users Group (affectionately known as HUG). Their first session in 2017 included people from neighborhood groups, the city health department, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Public Health, community health clinics, and hospital systems. The group has grown from fewer than 20 at the start to more than 100 people over the past year. Participants select the topics to cover during their quarterly meetings, which have included discussions of asthma hospitalizations, environmental health, domestic violence, and the use of electronic health records to measure impact of an infrastructure project. The group is successfully breaking down silos in data and practice, while increasing the focus on improving health in their neighborhoods.