First of Its Kind: City-Level Health Dashboard makes getting the data you need easy

By Christina Helmick

Have you ever been working on a project, article or something else in the health-realm of things, and wanted to see how Waco stood against other cities? If so, you were met with the reality that health data is only available at the county level, until now. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Resource Network (NRN) and the NYU School of Medicine have piloted a joint venture of analysis and producing city-level health data.

Waco, along with other cities across the nation, took part in a competitive application process to pilot this program. Accompanying Waco in this pilot program are three other cities: Flint, Michigan; Kansas City, Kansas; and Providence, Rhode Island.  What is a common thread between us and the other three cities? We all face economic challenges and are working hard to improve the overall quality of life.

You can view the City Health Dashboard by clicking here.

Okay, so let’s look at a metric together. Click “Waco, TX” and are click “Unemployment.” What appears is a whole bunch of numbers and a visually pleasing map.  What does that all mean?

Waco’s average for unemployment is 8.5%. Particularly useful, the dashboard also notes how far above or below the national average Waco sits. Waco’s unemployment rate is 3.5% above the national average of 5% — meaning Waco has more people seeking jobs and unable to find a job than the national average.

The map shows what parts of the city have higher rates of unemployment than others.  A darker purple means higher unemployment and light blue means lower rates of unemployment.  In our city, there are pockets of high and low unemployment rates—the lowest rate being 1.4% and the highest rate being 24.4%.

Also useful is the notation of the data source, years of collection and the definition of how the measure is calculated.  When looking at unemployment, the data comes from the Census data using a 5-year estimate.  The 5-year estimate means the data was collected between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2014. The definition of unemployment is as follows: percent of the civilian population age ≥ 16 that is unemployed but actively seeking work.

Being able to have this disaggregated data allows our community to better target our efforts. So, by looking at the Unemployment data from the City Health Dashboard, we are able to connect the Waco Foundational Employment Network’s efforts to certain areas in our community. The city-level data can be passed to community partners, such as Skillpoint Alliance, to help them target recruitment efforts for their free rapid workforce training program. Or, to Goodwill Industries to promote their career fairs and the free job training classes they offer.

I know (first-hand) data can be intimidating and confusing, so don’t forget that the Prosper Waco team is here to help. Our director of data and research, Brittany, is a data guru and loves to help organizations and people better understand how to find data, understand data and (better yet) how to effectively use data. She can be reached by sending a quick email to [email protected].

Peruse the health dashboard to look at the 26 different measures. Is there one that sparks your interest? For me, it’s the walkability measure. Waco scored 34 out of 100. We can do better!  One group in town that is working to improve walkability is Waco Walks. I’m adding their next meeting to my calendar so I can help be part of the solution of improving our community, one step at a time.

Christina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.




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