This Spring, Data You Can Use sponsored a session at the Zilber School of Public Health highlighting three new sources of data that can help promote healthy neighborhoods. Participants included representatives from health clinics, hospitals, community development corporations, neighborhood organizations, the City Health Department, faculty and students from UWM and the Medical College of Wisconsin and United Way. The slides from the session are available on our reports and presentations page.
The session introduced participants to each other, to new data sources, and the potential of using these resources to improve neighborhood health. It began with a quick quiz on the connection between health and wealth. Most participants were aware that:
- people with lower income report poorer health (both physical and mental);
- people with lower incomes have a higher risk of disease, and
- people with lower incomes have a significantly shorter life expectancies.
Many attendees were surprised to learn that according to the research, promoting economic growth doesn’t always correspond to improved health. However, investments in improved health and nutrition are associated with improved productivity and economic development.The three datasets we presented can be used to further explore this connection. They include:
- CityHealth, from the deBeaumont Foundation which looks at policies that affect health;
- 500 Cities Project from the Center for Disease Control and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation which provides health data at the census tract level; and
- the Milwaukee Community Data Base, a local portal for a range of data from a variety of sources.
CityHealth rates the 40 largest US cities on nine evidence-based policies that affect health. It offers information on nine policies, by city and by policy. For example, evidence shows that health outcomes can be affected by paid sick leave laws, high-quality, universal pre-kindergarten, affordable housing/inclusionary zoning policies, alcohol sales control, Tobacco 21 policies, healthy food procurement policies and complete streets policies. Each city gets a rating and some earn a bronze, medal or gold depending on the policy. Milwaukee received medals in three of the nine categories, suggesting there is much to be done.
The group was interested in the “data deep dive.” For each policy, the site provides the full codebook, the data and, of most interest, the evidence. This is a great resource for assuring funders, board members, public officials, and most importantly, the residents in your neighborhood, that there is some evidence that the policy will make a difference.
500 Cities Data for Local Health
For dataphyles, this is an exciting new data set made available through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the CDC. For people who care about health and neighborhood conditions, this is a tool to better understand and address health disparities.
Although there is a growing understanding of the impact of place on , there has only been limited data available at the county and city levels. And we know that county and even city level data masks the disparities that are so important to address.
Now, for the first time ever, we can access the 500 Cities database and see the differences at the census tract level! There are 27 variables, reflecting unhealthy behaviors, health outcomes, and preventative measures. In Wisconsin, the data are available for Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, Appleton and Waukesha. Using reliable small area estimations, we can compare Milwaukee to the state and national numbers, and for neighborhood enthusiasts, we can now compare neighborhoods within Milwaukee.
In a hyper-segregated city like Milwaukee, we are accustomed to seeing highly clustered data. The 500 Cities data reveal some interesting differences that should be affecting the way we target our resources. The MapBook for Milwaukee is available on our website and has each of the indicators mapped across the census tracts. For those who want to examine comparative areas, the actual data can be accessed and used interactively.
The Milwaukee Community Data Base is a portal to readily available data. The group explored how this could be used to identify housing built before 1951 and therefore more likely to have lead-based paint and/ or plumbing. Combining this with other available information could help identify local health needs and mobilize solutions. For a neighborhood group, the ability to match street addresses with both young children, and the threat of high blood lead levels, provides the ability to target education and water filter distribution.
What Participants Said
The “quickie critique” suggested that the session was well received.
- I liked the variety of data sources covered.
- I liked the introduction to new data sets that I will certainly be able to use in my work.
- I really appreciate you all taking the time to share these tools.
- I liked learning about and getting to play with the datasets, A very helpful resource—thank you!
- There is a great cross section of health/neighborhood representation here!
- I like that it was in the computer lab so I could look through the sites while learning about them.
Besides a suggestion to add wine to the session (it was a Friday afternoon after all), one recommendation that came from several attendees was to provide more examples of how the data could be used.
At Data Day 2017 MKE last week, we posted the 500 Cities map for Milwaukee throughout the day and participants took a data walk, noting some patterns unlike our usual heatmaps. This group agreed: there is much to explore.
So… to get things started, we’ll be convening a group of interested stakeholders to form a “users group” to explore the use of health data at the neighborhood level. If you’d like to join us, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org before July 6th 2017 and we’ll find a time to get started!