I don’t spend my work hours crunching data sets and pouring over confidence intervals, nor churning out reports dense with charts and tables and graphs. Numbers and statistics don’t frequently require much of my attention. Yet, data play a remarkably fundamental role in my work to reduce the burden of asthma as part of Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP). Data have helped define how we understand asthma and what we do about it. Without data, working on asthma would be like sailing the open ocean in a ship without a rudder.
First, data help us define the scope of a problem so we know what we’re dealing with. And with asthma, the scope isn’t pretty: according to the Centers for Disease Control asthma prevalence increased by 12.3% from 2001 to 2009, with 24.6 million people by the disease. Here in California, nearly five million people have been diagnosed with the disease as of 2007 (CHIS website, accessed June 7, 2011).
But that’s the big picture perspective. Narrow the focus a bit and additional contours take shape. The news is again sobering: (more…)
They say every picture tells a story. At the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, we believe that every data point has the potential to tell a story. That’s why we operate our flagship website, www.kidsdata.org.
Kidsdata.org consolidates hundreds of indicators at the state, county, city, and school district level that help paint of picture of how children in California are faring. Data are drawn from the California Department of Education, the Census Bureau, the California Healthy Kids Survey, and dozens of other sources - including, of course, the California Health Interview Survey. The stories these data tell can be used to help bring attention to key children’s issues, and to support funding requests.
At the foundation, we’ve developed a number of approaches – mostly through trial and error – for using data for storytelling. Here are some relatively low-cost tactics that have proven particularly effective for us.
• Tell a Story Yourself; Create a Data Slideshow. For a number of recent announcements about updated data on kidsdata.org, we’ve build simple data slideshows to summarize how children are faring for a particular topic, such as weight or child welfare. We like to make these slideshows visually compelling by showing data in multiple views – trend and pie graphs, maps, etc. – and we design them as high level, compact summaries of an issue.
Since we’ve begun to highlight these data slideshows in e-mail announcements about recently updated data, they’ve become the most clicked-on links. It’s not unusual for us to hear about people making use of these slideshows in their own work, such as an instructor who wanted to download the weight slideshow for use in an online class for California teachers.
• Localize the Data. While it’s not always easy to do, (more…)
“Carmaggedon” – the upcoming shutdown of the I-405 freeway July 15-18 – is yet another reminder that Los Angeles desperately needs to rethink its transportation and infrastructure planning.
This is particularly true given that SB 375, a California state law that became effective January 1, 2009, requires California’s Air Resources Board to develop regional reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions, and prompts the creation of regional plans to reduce emissions from vehicle use throughout the state.
In response, the Southern California Association of Governments, together with other public health leaders and community advocates throughout California, will hold a free training on July 19 on how to encourage healthy sustainable growth in Southern California.
Workshops participants will:
- Meet health, transportation and environmental protection leaders, including keynote speaker Dr. Richard Jackson, a noted environmental health expert from UCLA.
- Learn about what SB 375 is, what it requires, and how the community can provide input into the “Sustainable Community Strategies” the law requires.
- Discuss the role of public health in transportation planning.
Register now or learn more:
“Embedding Health and Equity in Southern California’s Regional Transportation Plan”
When: July 19, 2011 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Where: Southern California Association of Governments, 818 W. 7th Street, 12th Floor Los Angeles, CA 90017 • www.scag.ca.gov
Register: Email Molly Hartman to register or for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 444-8027 x343
Registration deadline: July 12th.
Poor and minority parents are disproportionately exposed to pollution, and that exposure may have life-long consequences for their babies, writes Janet Currie, a Princeton expert on health disparities, in a new article for The American Economic Review. Currie notes that even in utero exposure can be harmful and result in low-birth weight, a condition that is almost as good a predictor of low future earnings as children’s test scores. Curries cites as an example a study of mothers who lived near a carbon-monoxide-emitting steel mill in Utah whose incidence of low-birth weight decreased when the mill was temporarily closed and rose when it reopened. “The estimates suggest that moving from an area with high levels of CO to one with low levels of CO would have an effect larger than getting a woman who was smoking ten cigarettes a day during pregnancy to quit!” Currie writes.
The authors note that education, as well as environmental factors, also play a part. For example, low birth weight particularly affects African American high school dropouts, whose incidence rate is more than three times higher than among white college educated mothers. And estimates suggest that an additional year of college education reduces the incidence of low birth weight by 10 percent.
Curries research is summarized in a recent New York Times article on health disparities, and the full journal article is available here.
(Turning data into action) – UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
(ALERT Project) – UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
A new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimates that up to 220,000 California children may be excluded from affordable health care coverage under health care reform due to their immigrant status.
The number represents approximately 20 percent of all uninsured children in California.
Of those children, up to 40,000 may be eligible for coverage but may not apply, due to confusion about new rules governing access to both the California Health Benefit Exchange and the state’s expanded Medi-Cal program.
The study has garnered wide attention, particularly in the Hispanic press, including stories by La Opinion and Univision. A San Bernardino Sun article noted that kids without coverage may pose a health risk to all kids, as infectious disease can spread easily in places where children gather, such as schools and playgrounds.
“If the goal of public health is to prevent the spread of infectious disease, then there is a potential threat from children who don’t have access to health care,” said Dr. Sohan Bassi, an infectious disease specialist at San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland, in the article.
Bassi noted that recent outbreaks of whooping cough were very likely spread from unvaccinated individuals who did not have access to health care.
“If a child is part of the school system, they should be part of the health care system,” Bassi said.
On Monday, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released nine graphic photos on cigarette packages that will serve as warning labels to stop people from smoking and to encourage current smokers to quit. The images show exactly how picking up a cigarette can affect the lives of not only the smoker but also those affected by secondhand smoke.
According to a June 24 New York Times article, smoking remains the number one leading cause of deaths in the United States killing 443,000 people every year. Youth are among the largest group to start smoking; with an estimated 4,000 teens each day trying their first cigarette.
Groups throughout the country such as The American Lung Association and Breathe CA are continuing to promote healthy lung programs that provide education, advocacy and research in the hopes of helping to reduce this epidemic.
The true costs of smoking