The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
December 15, 2014

10 ideas for improving data to support healthy communities and end poverty

December 15, 2014

This month, the Urban Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco released What Counts: Harnessing Data for America’s Communities, a book of short, accessible essays and a website. What Counts helps answer some of the major questions raised by the prior volume in the series, Investing in What Works for America’s Communities, namely “how do we tell what is needed, what could work, and what is actually working?”

The launch event (see video below) brought together many of the book’s authors and editors for a discussion with an in-person and virtual audience. This is the last of three posts about that discussion (read the first and second).

 

Strategies for the future 

David Erickson of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco closed the launch event by leading a lively conversation about how to use data to end intergenerational poverty by 2034. Erickson called data the “lingua franca” that can unite multiple disciplines, noting that the leading health indicator for children is third grade reading readiness.

Erickson asked for suggestions on how to improve data to support healthy communities and end poverty. The audience responded with multiple ideas:

  1. Building a robust data infrastructure
  2. Implementing the proposal from Senator Patty Murray and Representative Paul Ryan for a commission on evidence-based policy
  3. Embedding training in the understanding and use of data into policy schools and other venues
  4. Developing neighborhood health records, using technology already available
  5. Building on the record of past successes, such as the process by which the community learned how to use Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data effectively
  6. Involving the policymakers who are often forgotten: county officials
  7. Mining new sources of data, such as Health Impact Assessments under the Affordable Care Act
  8. Expanding the community of those who are using data, including by providing multilingual data
  9. Solving the “wrong pocket problem” so at least a portion of proven savings from changed practices is used to make further improvements in those practices
  10. Continuing research into what works for communities

Ending the day, Urban’s Tom Kingsley urged participants in the room and online to continue the discussion. Judging from the robust Twitter feed at #whatcountsforUSA, that’s already happening. The book’s editors promised to be there to keep the “accelerating momentum with terrific potential” going.

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