Hill Event Explores Value of Data to Inform Efforts to Improve Women's Health

Jun 11, 2013, 1:04 PM

Last week, a lunch briefing hosted by Women’s Policy, Inc., a national nonprofit that focuses on women’s issues, brought together a packed house of policymakers, public health leaders, academics, and legislative staff in key Congressional offices to discuss how data can inform action around women's and population health.

The briefing focused on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute that measures the health of every county in the United States and provides tools to help create solutions that make it easier for people to be healthy in their own communities. Measuring health outcomes like length and quality of life along with health factors like education, income, and obesity rates, the Rankings provide an annual snapshot of where counties are doing well and where they can improve.

In turn, the Roadmaps to Health program helps counties partner with other local leaders to use that data to improve the health of residents. One of the featured speakers at the briefing was Claude-Alix Jacob, Chief Public Health Officer of Cambridge, Mass., one of six inaugural winners of RWJF’s Roadmaps to Health Prize.

Jacob pointed out the value of having data to work with determining where to put resources in order to improve community health. Women’s health data points of in Cambridge include:

  • Girls reported slightly higher rates of smoking and binge drinking than boys
  • Girls reported rates three times higher than boys of verbal abuse.
  • Girls reported being three times more likely to hurt themselves than boys
  • 87 percent of eligible women have had Pap smears, and 85.5 have had mammograms
  • One-third of single mothers live in poverty

One key program that Jacob pointed to that Cambridge has begun is Baby University, a free 16-week innovate program designed for parents with children from birth to age 3. The goal is to increase parents’ knowledge  about child-rearing topics, strengthen parent-child relationships and connect parents to community resources. “While the first few cycles have largely included only moms,” said Jacob, “ the two most recent cycles have included more dads.”

The program includes childcare and transportation costs for enrolled parents, as well as home visits by professional staff. Parents who complete the program become part of an alumni association that continues the relationship between the parents and the program staff. So far, the program has had 140 graduates.

>>Read more about the briefing from the County Health Rankings blog.

>>Bonus Link: Among the resources for improving community health discussed at the Women Policy Inc. briefing was the “Town Hall Meeting in a Box” to help facilitate community conversations. The toolkit includes invitation samples, venue ideas and presentation documents. See more County Health Rankings & Roadmaps resources here.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.