On October 11-13, the Polis Center at IUPUI will host the semi-annual meeting of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP), a network of independent data intermediaries across the US that have a shared mission to help community stakeholders use neighborhood-level data for better decision-making.
Eighty people representing 34 cities, along with other national leaders in community information, will gather in Indianapolis to learn how data are being used to improve the quality of life for residents in Indianapolis and other partner cities. The Polis Center at IUPUI has been a member of NNIP since 1999 and hosted the conference previously in 2007. Polis developed one of the first comprehensive online and interactive neighborhood indicators systems created for any city called SAVI. SAVI (Social Assets and Vulnerabilities Indicators) is now one of the nation’s largest community information systems and allows people to explore and map social issues such as poverty and education across neighborhoods and other geographies. Its goal is to provide actionable data to inform local decisions and policies.
Highlights from this year’s event include presentations from partner organizations from Rice University in Houston, TX and The Data Center of New Orleans discussing the critical role of data in the immediate aftermath and long-term recovery from hurricanes and other natural disasters. An Indianapolis panel of leaders from United Way of Central Indiana, John Boner Community Center, City of Indianapolis, and Parkview Health will share challenges and successes in their move toward a data informed culture. Attendees also will learn how to build a data-driven community and how to employ user-centered design.
NNIP combines local expertise with the power of a national peer-learning network to strengthen communities. The local partner organizations are skilled in organizing and transforming data and have developed neighborhood indicators across many topics that are kept to date. All partners have a focus on assisting organizations and residents in low-income communities. With expertise on a range of issues, NNIP partners act as conveners to connect nonprofits and government agencies across policy domains. NNIP is supported and coordinated by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington DC. All the network activities are grounded in Urban’s decades of social and economic policy analyses. Urban elevates the collective experience from NNIP to inform local and national policy.
Parkview Regional Medical Center
This year, Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne will open a 2,000 square-foot greenhouse that the community can use for growing fruits and vegetables. The greenhouse facility will house a “learning kitchen” and meeting space near a home for seniors and an early childhood education center.
The Parkview Regional Medical Center is part of Parkview Health, a not-for-profit health system in northeast Indiana that consists of nine hospitals serving about 800,000 people across seven counties. Its new greenhouse will address the problem of obesity by encouraging a culture of healthy eating. A wide range of community
groups in Fort Wayne have expressed interest in partnering on it.
Parkview Health is targeting obesity based on a community health needs assessment (CHNA) that it released this
past December. As part of the assessment process, input was gathered from the community about their top community health concerns. Public health data was collected to understand the size and seriousness of identified health problems. Obesity ranked highest among several community health challenges.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 mandated that hospitals produce a CHNA every three years, but Parkview has been producing them for more than a decade. The assessments “help us identify the community’s priorities,” says Sue Ehinger, the Chief Experience Officer with Parkview Health. “And then, we can partner with
people in the community in order to close the gaps on those issues.”
Creating an assessment
To create its 2016 CHNA, Parkview Health collaborated with The Polis Center and Indiana University’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, acting
collaboratively as the Indiana Partnership for Healthy Communities (IN-PHC). The mission of IN-PHC is to make the knowledge generated by communities and
academic institutions more accessible to the public, and to translate that knowledge into practices that improve public health. It was founded in 2012 with the support of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
According to Karen Frederickson Comer, director of collaborative research and health geoinformatics at The Polis Center, the IN-PHC team used a variety of state and national sources to create a preliminary list of health needs in the counties that Parkview Health serves and used SAVI’s inventory of community assets to identify relevant community programs. Then, it gathered more detailed data about them by conducting phone surveys and organizing focus groups with people who live in the communities.
By analyzing hard data and incorporating community input, the team identified 13 major health issues in the region, including cancer, diabetes, the cost of healthcare, mental health, and sexually transmitted diseases. Next, it applied a method for ranking them that took into account the size of the problem, the seriousness of the problem, and the effectiveness of potential interventions.
Last summer, the IN-PHC team presented its findings to executives from each of the Parkview Health hospitals, who then voted on which health issues to prioritize. Obesity was easily their first choice, followed by mental health, maternal and child health, drug abuse, and diabetes. Each hospital in the Parkview Health system also selected its own top priorities.
The challenges identified by the CHNA are well known to health experts, but the process of creating a formal assessment is useful, according to Ehinger, because
it “helps us to focus and funnel all our activities into what the community believes is most needed.”
The process is also valuable because it helps keep the issues in the public eye.
“It’s very easy for us, as humans, to keep our heads in the sand,” says Sarah Wiehe, director of the Community Health Engagement Program at the Indiana
Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. “These are very challenging problems to address. A lot of them are interrelated, and they don’t have a silver bullet answer. Having a place to start is extremely valuable. It starts the conversation within the health system, and between the health system and the community. And together, they identify ways in which they can intervene.”
The collaboration between Parkview and IN-PHC has now moved into a new phase, and The Polis Center is helping Parkview with implementing solutions. “We’ve asked them to walk through the solutions, and help us figure out: Are these indeed best practices?” Ehinger says. “Or, do we need to stop going in this direction and go a different route? They’ll help us solidify the direction that we’re going with all our solutions, and understand which measures we should
be focused on.”
“We’ll help them assess their chosen interventions,” says Comer, “to determine which are best practices and whether there’s a better way to measure their
effectiveness. So, we’ll be doing literature reviews, looking at which programs are evidence based and which are not. For the ones that are not, we’ll look at how
others have measured whether they have the desired impact.” Effectiveness is the most obvious metric to measure programs by, “but there are other dimensions to take into account,” Comer says. “For example, a program might be effective, but if it’s also extremely costly, it might become a lower priority than a program that’s very effective but less costly.”
Parkview’s commitment to cultivating partners both inside and outside the community—partners who can help them both identify and solve problems—is critical to the organization’s long-term success, according to Wiehe.
“By going through this process, they’re getting more than just a report at the end,” Wiehe says. “Now, they have partners who are invested in it. And, that spirit of partnership is notable.”