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How Data-driven Insights are the Key to Reversing Social Inequities Illuminated by COVID-19

As the uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths continue to rise, many health and economic disparities have surfaced, hitting African Americans and communities of color especially hard. Not only do African Americans have a disproportionate prevalence of many underlying conditions that make the novel coronavirus lethal (including diabetes, hypertension, heart conditions, obesity and asthma), our nation’s minority communities are also facing the brunt of the economic tailspin that has ensued. With so many social determinants of health coming into play, it has been extremely difficult for communities to slow down the devastation of this pandemic for these populations.

The World Health Organization defines social determinants of health as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. These are heavily influenced by the distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national, and local levels. Social determinants of health are linked to health disparities even down to the genetic level and include things such as access to health care, education, income, public safety, transportation, etc. For example, individuals who experience extreme financial hardship and increased exposure to stress and trauma are far more likely to develop certain health conditions and diseases than individuals with the same genetic markers, but who do not live in as extreme conditions.

As we learn more about the relationship between social determinants of health and health outcomes, community health professionals have, rightfully, been adopting collective impact approaches. Having access to the right data is critical for communities to address large-scale community challenges like COVID-19. With many participating partner organizations, collective impact initiatives rely heavily on data to glean meaningful insights and to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies and tactics, all in service to discovering (and doing more of) what truly works. While the responses from various partners from many different sectors are nuanced, the data serves to align all of the partners, so that they can engage in the initiative and contribute meaningfully to the overarching goal.

By definition, collective impact initiatives must be collaborative, outcomes-based and sustainable. But one additional attribute that is intrinsic to the practice of collective impact is the attention paid to addressing the policies, systems, and structural changes that act as barriers to equitable solutions. To eradicate issues like health inequities, data and insights are key to mobilizing leaders to take action related to policy and systems changes that are linked to health outcomes. Simply put, outcomes data and actionable insights are needed for lasting change to be possible, especially when it comes to social determinants of health.

If your organization is participating in a collective impact approach to combat COVID-19 or other health disparities in your community, SureImpact can help ensure your initiative is using outcomes-based data and insights to their fullest potential. On May 21, Sheri Chaney Jones, president of SureImpact and Measurement Resources Company, presented a webinar, Moving from Outputs to Outcomes to Increase Financial and Mission Impact. Learn how to track and report outcomes, measure your initiative’s overall performance, make better decisions, and communicate your story of social impact.


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