New data can help communities address their health challenges

Blog post by Corianne Scally
June 13, 2017

Urban Institute   (NNIP Coordinator)

Data highlight public health problems

Recently released 500 Cities data can help communities address public health issues like these by providing estimates for every census tract in each of the 500 largest US cities—at least one in every state. A collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson FoundationCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and CDC Foundation, the 500 Cities data provide 27 indicators of unhealthy behaviors, health outcomes, and use of preventive services for adults.

Particularly when mapped, these data can reveal where health problems are most persistent. For example, 500 Cities data can show neighborhood rates of adult diabetes or how obesity rates intersect with a lack of leisure time physical activity. Disparities between neighborhoods can be identified to help target health interventions and services to those whose conditions most demand them.

Community engagement is essential

Access to data is helpful, but it’s only part of the solution. To move from observation to action, stakeholders need to come together to decipher what the data show and determine a context-sensitive strategy to move forward. Hosting a local or regional event is one way to jump-start these conversations and build community capacity to use the 500 Cities data.

As described in our new guide, a community event can bring diverse stakeholders together to develop a shared agenda, language, and data literacy around improving health and to advance actions to do so. People who may have never been in the same room can look at the same data, come to a shared understanding of the issues residents face, and generate new ideas for advancing community health and reducing disparities.