Durham Community Health Indicators Project Publishes Health Data for the First Time

Thursday, November 8, 2018

DataWorks NC, in support of Durham’s Community Health Indicators Project, is publishing Durham’s first public neighborhood-level dataset on chronic health conditions. The data, published in Durham’s Neighborhood Compass and in a new Health Indicators Project website, currently cover type 2 diabetes and will soon expand to include stroke and other conditions. Fred Johnson, MBA, assistant professor of the practice of community and family medicine, serves on the board of DataWorks NC.

Accompanying the data is a new data visualization tool, the Durham Health Indicators Project, at https://health.dataworks-nc.org. The tool, developed over the past year by DataWorks NC and Research Action Design in conversation with neighborhood groups and public health experts, uses dynamic illustrations and text to explore the connections between neighborhood-level conditions like walkability, food access and evictions and chronic health conditions. It presents an engaging, interactive and printable infosheet for each part of the city, in both English and Spanish. The tool provides a friendlier entry point to allow residents across the city to engage with information about their neighborhoods, and figure out how to take action to improve their health and the health of their community.

What can we learn from this work?

In 2017, 12.9% of Durham adults experienced type 2 diabetes. But when we look at the neighborhood level, it becomes clear that the county-wide rate masks very diverse realities. Rates among adults actually range from 4.2% to 21.6% across Census tracts, which are areas generally the size of two or three neighborhoods combined.

By breaking the information down by race and ethnicity it becomes clear that the Black or African American population experience rates between 11% and 22.9% across neighborhoods. For the Latino/a population that range is 4.3% to 20.7%; the Asian population 1.4% to 43%; and for the white population that is 4% to 19.3%.

Knowing more about the prevalence of chronic conditions by neighborhood helps us consider how factors like walkability and food access may influence health.

What can residents do with this information?

Data is about people - it represents individuals, groups, communities and their physical surroundings. For that reason it belongs to the people it describes and should serve their community stories. The Neighborhood Compass and the Health Indicators Project websites also highlight assets and resources related to health. Residents can connect to services, research and action by following links from the site. 

How did this work come together?

The Community Health Indicators Project is a partnership of Durham County Public Health, Lincoln Community Health, Duke's Center for Community and Population Health Improvement, and DataWorks NC. The Community Health Indicators Project partners have coordinated on how to make community health data available in accessible formats that honor patient privacy. And through listening sessions, focus groups, interviews, and neighborhood workshops DataWorks reached out to learn what matters most about health in neighborhoods and how people prefer to use data.

Those experiences guide the content and form of the new Health Indicators Project website. Co-designed with Research Action Design’s Tim Stallmann, illustrator Q Wideman and web designers Kompleks Creative, this site uses illustrations to explore factors influencing health in our neighborhoods: access to healthy food, physical exercise, and healthcare, as well as exposure to environmental stress factors and underlying issues of race and class. The bi-lingual site features Spanish language content from tilde Language Justice Cooperative.