EHF’s newly-released County Health Data allows communities to see the factors that are determining the overall health of the people who live there. These statistics aren’t just numbers. They represent real stories of real people. They go far beyond diseases or behaviors that make people sick. They help explain why your community experiences specific health problems and what may be done to fix it.
Like we’ve said before, this data means little if we’re not called to action. Whether you’re a clinic, a nonprofit organization or a congregation, there are many ways to put the information in our new County Health Data tool to work.
Here are three ideas:
Start the conversation in your community
There’s a story behind every number. Why is this happening? What are the root causes of these health numbers? What’s the first step in finding a solution? Combining the data with important questions can spark important conversations.
“We hope you’ll use this new tool to look at the many indicators of poor health and find something that moves you to take action,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s President and CEO. “Just starting a conversation can spark discussions about what would need to take place to change these numbers.”
Kate Kongle is a Community Coach at County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. She recently wrote that communities can’t begin to answer key health questions without data.
“Communities use data to figure out what goals will best meet residents’ needs,” Kongle wrote. “To keep from getting overwhelmed by data remember this: You don’t need a perfect picture to take action. You just need to get enough data to get a good picture…”
Create and choose effective programs
For clinics and nonprofits, this data may prompt collaboration with other groups that are serving similar populations. Certain indicators may serve as catalysts to establish pilot programs to test new ways of talking about the true cause of a health problem.
“From convening to community meetings, to really address an issue it takes a wholesale collaborative effort,” Marks said.
Congregations may use the information to see their community in a new way. The data may open their eyes to a problem or concern they didn’t realize even existed. Meeting with neighbors and community groups to discuss the findings may produce the beginning solutions to address the problems.
“It’s important for community partners to share data to help them work better together,” Kongle said.
Develop an action plan and/or policy agenda
Many of the health indicators demonstrate why certain concerns are important NOW. For example, it’s no secret that Texas has more uninsured people than any other state. EHF’s research continues to show despite gains in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, more than 700,000 low-income Texans remain stuck in a health insurance “coverage gap.” With incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid and too low to receive health insurance subsidies under the ACA, many in the “coverage gap” are working Texans who simply can’t get affordable health insurance. And without expanding Medicaid or coming up with an alternative plan, these uninsured Texans will likely continue to remain uninsured. As state lawmakers consider changes in Austin, this kind of non-biased data demonstrates an urgent need to help improve access to quality health care for millions of Texans.
Other health indicators like high child poverty, high obesity and low third grade reading scores also show the necessity to address these problems now. Urgency, backed by solid information, can help stimulate conversations and actions in new and effective ways.