City Spotlight: A Year in Review

Dec. 18, 2019

Samantha Breslin

Since launching the City Health Dashboard, it has been so exciting to learn how users engage with the data to improve health, well-being, and equity in their communities. That’s why in March 2019, we introduced City Spotlight, our digital monthly series to highlight compelling data and success stories from the 500 cities. Every city is unique and will develop its own roadmap toward better health but our goal has been to share and amplify these local stories with the hope that practitioners, health department officials, government employees, and others can learn from their peers across the country and look to these as examples of what’s possible in their city.

We’ve learned a lot from these stories, so as 2019 comes to a close, we wanted to take a look a back on our past City Spotlights and share some key themes that emerged across some of our partner cities.

It Takes a Village

Our Spotlight cities are all dedicated to creating healthy and equitable communities for every resident but to be successful they’ve realized that inclusion and partnership go a long way. When cities – especially those that are smaller and medium-sized–are inclusive, their capacity expands and they’re able to leverage diverse expertise towards solving the tough challenges. Collaborating across sectors and meaningfully engaging communities on what issues matter most and how to solve them were top priorities for three of our Spotlighted Cities.

Grand Rapids, MI is using Dashboard data in their work with Invest Health, a national cross-sectoral initiative whose goal is to improve health outcomes through targeted public and private investments in underserved areas. Rancho Cucamonga, CA is engaging residents as key stakeholders through programs like Community Champions and Healthy RC Youth Leaders, gaining community voices to help focus city solutions. And in Providence, the Healthy Communities Office works across departments and with community partners to identify programs and policies that can promote youth food access, including utilizing the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) in all Providence Public Schools and connecting the free summer meals program to youth play to increase participation.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

There’s a saying that what gets measured gets done. Data-driven approaches allow city governments, agencies and many others in the community to direct outreach, resources, and planning and development strategies in a more targeted and efficient way. The Dashboard has been a catalyst for integrating data into decision-making throughout our Spotlight Cities as they implement Health in All Policies. Four of these cities – Philadelphia, PA, Louisville, KY, Oklahoma City, OK, and Austin, TX – have taken the Dashboard’s data a step further and combined it with their own locally-collected data to create a more complete picture of community health.

  • Looking at the Dashboards census tract maps to pinpoint the neighborhoods with the highest risk of lead exposure, Philadelphia Department Public Health is using this local data to identify children and remediate households at risk for lead poisoning, and championing policies to protect children and families.

  • After integrating the Dashboard’s housing with potential lead risk measure with their own data on elevated blood lead level tests, the Center for Health Equity in Louisville was able to confirm the geographic distribution of health inequities in the city and pivot their outreach strategy.

  • In Oklahoma City, the OKC-County Health Department explored how life expectancy and economic measures, including unemployment and children in poverty, move together across neighborhoods within the city in order to understand community context for the programs they develop to address these issues. 

  • Austin Public Health integrated Dashboard data on uninsurance rates and local data on new HIV diagnoses, identifying neighborhood patterns; information they are using to focus their efforts as they implement their Community Health Improvement Plan.

The power of story

These themes that we’ve highlighted are only possible by cities sharing their experience and their stories with us. Though we have only just begun to spotlight these city stories, it is already clear that cities are not alone in the challenges they face and the solutions they develop for those challenges. We’ve been lucky to partner with these cities and to learn from them, and are happy to play a role in connecting them as they move the needle towards improved health and equity.

These are just a few examples of the innovative work we’ve highlighted through City Spotlight so far. We look forward to the upcoming year of partnering with even more cities, sharing more success stories, and learning about new approaches to improving health.

Read all of these stories and more on the site. Interested in becoming a City Spotlight in 2020? Email us for more details.

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