Local health departments are tasked with understanding and addressing health inequities in the populations they serve.
To meaningfully address health inequities, local health departments have identified the need for credible local data to better understand the relationship between community conditions and health outcomes. Yet, when given access to these data, the researchers observed a very large variation in the level of interest between local health departments.
In this study, the authors offered Connecticut’s Local health departments access to the Health Equity Index, a web-based tool that provides data on health outcomes and community conditions at the state, municipal or neighborhood levels. Their usage of the Index was then monitored. They compared participation in the study as well as usage levels of the Index to characteristics of individual health directors, the health departments they lead and the populations that they serve.
Those health directors who chose to participate in the study and gain access to the index were more likely to lead departments or districts with economically disadvantaged and racially and ethnically diverse populations. They were also more likely to be supported by a board of directors. Usage level of the Index was best predicted by the length of service of the health director and the percentage of MPH on staff.
This study was limited by a small study size, with directors of health given the role of gatekeeper to the Index for their departments. Future studies should investigate Index usage by local health departments without this restriction.