Helping More Locales Respond to COVID-19: The Dashboard Adds Smaller Cities

May 1, 2020

City Health Dashboard

The COVID-19 pandemic touches every city across the country – not only by causing illness, but also through the loss of businesses and jobs, by closing essential spaces like schools, community centers, and parks, and by worsening housing insecurity. Access to accurate local data about health and the social and economic factors that influence health has never been more important than it is now. To support the work of cities as they confront a range of challenges, the Dashboard has added and updated key data and resources.

Adding 250+ Cities to the Dashboard

The City Health Dashboard was originally created for the 500 largest U.S. cities - those with populations of about 66,000 or more. Now, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we have expanded to include all cities with populations of 50,000 and above – which means we’ve added over 250 new cities, for a grand total of 766 cities on the Dashboard. Equipped for the first time with data on health and drivers of health ranging from life expectancy to unemployment rates, local leaders of these newly-added smaller cities will have a sharper view of the challenges facing their communities and how to address them.

Historically, it has been challenging for small and midsize cities to find rigorous health data that is specific to their cities and neighborhoods. For many smaller cities, this update to the Dashboard will mark the first time they can easily access local data on health, well-being, and equity in one place. Because the availability of data becomes more limited as city size decreases, the Dashboard’s smaller cities (population below 66,000) do not currently have the full set of metrics that are displayed for cities of 66,000 or more. As such data become available, however, the metrics for smaller cities will be expanded accordingly.

The Latest Data

For all cities on the Dashboard, starting today, users can now access even more years of data for ten metrics across our focus areas of clinical care, physical environment, and social and economic factors. The following metrics have been updated to the latest year of data available for all 766 cities:

  • Children in Poverty

  • Excessive Housing Cost

  • Housing with Potential Lead Risk

  • Income Inequality

  • Lead Exposure Risk Index

  • Neighborhood Racial/Ethnic Segregation

  • Racial/Ethnic Diversity

  • Unemployment

  • Uninsured

  • Walkability

In another update to the Dashboard, you may notice newly available birth and mortality metrics for five cities (Athens, GA; Augusta, GA; Indianapolis, IN; Louisville, KY; Nashville, TN). These cities now have eight additional measures available to them, ranging across health outcomes, behaviors, and clinical care. New language on the pages about these eight metrics helps explain why these data are now on the site. Finally, life expectancy estimates are now available for Dashboard cities in Maine and Wisconsin. These values from USALEEP, the data source for this metric, were not available in the original 2018 Dashboard data release.

Using Dashboard Data for COVID-19 Response

The current pandemic highlights inequity in communities across the country as people of color and those living in poverty experience greater rates of illness and death.  As cities respond to and look to recover from COVID-19, the Dashboard can provide invaluable context in numerous ways and help city leaders to:

  • Identify neighborhoods with the highest need, and effectively target scarce resources towards those areas. As city budgets become even more stretched, careful allocation of resources will be critical.

  • Use the Dashboard’s downloadable data and API to complement local sources of data on COVID and build a more comprehensive picture of vulnerability and impact. For example, a local official can use the Dashboard to identify neighborhoods with higher obesity and excessive housing cost rates to identify subpopulations at particularly high risk for impact from COVID. 

  • Find and share with policymakers and partners a community snapshot to help pinpoint the city’s greatest health challenges, and tailor outreach efforts to better engage those who may be underserved or underrepresented.

Connecting Users to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps

Most US cities are situated within larger surrounding counties. To give Dashboard users access to their city’s regional (county-level) context regarding measures of health, equity, and well-being, we have added a direct link to the excellent County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHRR) resource. Being able to easily access county-level data can provide useful context as you plan and implement city-level initiatives, whether in response to COVID19 or other health challenges.

Come Learn More

We invite you to our monthly Dashboard Virtual Office Hours in May as we dive into these new cities and updated data and share how these new tools can help your community in responding to the pandemic. Please join us on Thursday, May 14th at 2pm EST. You can learn more and register here.

From the entire Dashboard team, we hope you are staying safe and healthy.

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