From Inside Business
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, once said, “It’s difficult to imagine the power that you’re going to have when so many different sorts of data are available.”
Today, data is power. It helps us track community indicators, tailor offerings to customers, personalize the patient experience, respond to crises in our community, and educate and inform stakeholders.
The challenge is harnessing the power of data to make decisions, particularly when attempting to combine data from multiple systems, platforms and sources.
Launched in 2016, the Greater Hampton Roads Community Indicators Dashboard, or GHRconnects, successfully does that for our region, offering a one-stop-shop for information. By providing access to accurate, reliable data, GHRconnects supports collaboration and data-driven decision-making to promote health and quality of life in Greater Hampton Roads.
Reinvent Hampton Roads was invited to convene economists and thought leaders from HREDA, HRPDC, Hampton Roads Chamber, ODU and community colleges to develop a common set of economic indicators to include on the portal.
GHRconnects measures factors that significantly affect the region’s quality of life, tracking meaningful, accurate and standardized data over time to give a clear picture of how the region is performing in a variety of critical areas.
The portal includes over 200 community indicators and more than 250 demographic measures on over 20 cities and counties throughout southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.
The portal offers:
- A process for increasing reliable and validated publicly available data
- A framework to advance collaboration and collective impact
- Fully downloadable data sets, maps, tables and charts
- Tools to conduct community needs assessments and improvement planning
And it allows us to:
- See how the region compares to Virginia and the nation
- Get the numbers of who lives in a county by race, gender, age and more
- Learn how we are doing based on national goals
- Access more than 2,000 effective community-based programs from across the country
- Locate and apply for national grants from the government and large foundations
To illustrate the value of such a portal, take for example three of our local health systems: Sentara Healthcare, Bon Secours and Riverside. One of the mandates of the Affordable Care Act was that all nonprofit health systems complete a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years.
Prior to GHRconnects, these three systems were conducting their assessments separately, using different data sources, conducting separate interviews and creating siloed plans of action.
Enter GHRconnects and now all three providers, along with numerous local health departments, will use the portal as their main data source for the assessment so findings are more consistent and everyone is seeing the same trends, enabling them to work toward common goals.
“The data on the portal is more interactive, better illustrated, easier to understand and timelier than the health and social determinants of health data we have used in our prior Community Health Needs Assessments for Hampton Roads,” said Laura Armstrong-Brauer, a planner and strategist at Sentara.
She added a significant goal is for the health systems and health departments to work together on their community health improvement plans based on the portal data, further enhancing collaboration.
Sentara has found many other uses of the portal. Its cancer outreach team uses it to view data on cancer disparities to help plan outreach efforts.
After the opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency in Virginia in 2017, GHRconnects added an opioid section to the community initiatives page to organize data and emerging resources and increase awareness of community efforts to combat the crisis.
GHRconnects offered a central place where the information could be organized for public use and education, encouraging collaboration among those addressing the crisis.
In addition, leaders from throughout the region have been using the system to target historically under-resourced census tracts to target neighbors to participate in a new workforce development initiative. When implemented, program participants will engage in holistic workforce development designed to provide comprehensive case management, build applicable skills, and connect them to in-demand employment opportunities throughout the region.
Focusing on both job seekers and employers, the data in GHRconnects will help build a healthy employment ecosystem and promote long-term, inclusive growth throughout Hampton Roads.
These examples show how GHRconnects brings leadership and resources together to facilitate data-driven decision-making and community development throughout the region. It serves as a repository for community resources, assets and best practices, and offers support for community collaborations.
“The portal really promotes regional and cross-sector collaboration which makes us all more efficient and effective,” Armstrong-Brauer said. And, the opportunity it offers to search best practices locally and nationally is an invaluable resource.”
Data comes from a variety of sources including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Community Survey, the Department of Education, the State Board of Elections, the Virginia Youth Survey, the National Cancer Institute and Feeding America.
The portal’s Data Advisory Board of over 30 volunteer experts in economics, research, higher education and social sciences ensures the quality of the data by evaluating the collection process and confirming its reliability and value.
The portal is a free public resource thanks to the generous financial support of local partners including Bon Secours Health System, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Sentara Healthcare and United Way of South Hampton Roads. Support is also provided by the Virginia Department of Health and its local departments: Chesapeake Health Department, Eastern Shore Health District, Norfolk Public Health Department, Peninsula Health District, Portsmouth Health Department, Virginia Beach Health Department and Western Tidewater Health District.
Explore the portal and learn more by visiting GHRconnects.org. To schedule a free presentation, get training for your organization or add your project to the community initiatives page, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luciano H. Ramos is vice president of programs and integration for the United Way of South Hampton Roads. Reach him at email@example.com 757-853-8500, ext. 117.
Kelsey Mohring is director of PR and marketing for the United Way of South Hampton Roads. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 757-853-8500, ext. 125.
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