The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta used the 500 Cities data to develop health and wellness toolkits that identify the highest prevalence of health risks in four Georgia cities. The toolkits provide a unique opportunity to visualize, compare, and contrast health risks, examine health risks with social, economic, and place-based attributes, and identify spatial patterns in health care that need addressing.
In partnership with Neighborhood Nexus, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta created an online tool—Georgia Healthy Cities —to address a need for local involvement in public health planning. The goal of this toolkit is to inform and help design policy interventions to critical public health needs as well as to strengthen community partnerships and collaborations to build healthier communities.
Georgia Healthy Cities provides an online repository for communities to learn how to use 500 Cities data. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta also created the website so communities can extract the 500 Cities data at any geographic level to make data-driven decisions to improve health outcomes for everyone. The site is useful for building knowledge and framing policy for community members, researchers, city governments, and other stakeholders. The site is designed for users with minimal to advanced computer literacy (and everyone in between).
This online platform also hosts storymaps for four Georgia cities—Albany, Atlanta, Columbus, and Savannah—that offer an in-depth look at many of the 500 Cities health outcomes alongside the cities' social and economic contexts, landscapes of risk, and access to health care and healthy amenities (e.g., grocery stores). These tools allow users to see how the social determinants of health are related in these four cities and explore more specific relationships between certain factors that contribute to health.
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta also conducted a community engagement survey to provide Georgia residents an opportunity to talk about the social determinants of health in their everyday lives. The team structured the community survey questions in a similar way to the 500 Cities dataset, such that the survey was divided into several sections with questions centered around the key social determinants of health: neighborhood and the built environment, social and community context, economics and jobs, health and health care, and neighborhood safety. Among other key findings, the survey results showed the following:
- people believe in the importance of their civic duty
- more people have been treated for high blood pressure and high cholesterol in the past 12 months
- fewer women have received a mammogram over the past 12 months
- more people feel unsafe in their neighborhoods because of neighborhood violence, poor and/or broken street lighting, and robberies/burglaries
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta hosted trainings and workshops across the state to outline their findings from the 500 Cities dataset (including identifying each city's highest health risks) and facilitate discussions around the systemic causes and possible evidence-based policy interventions for areas of concern.
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta team also used these workshops to train community leaders on navigating these storymaps, using the information to develop grant applications, and telling stories about health care. Participants are now able to create maps at the street, neighborhood, or tract levels and can view associated local data along with the most common health risks as identified by the 500 Cities data.
WHAT THEY LEARNED
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta found that it was rewarding to connect folks who work in the same healthcare space and enable them to learn from each other. It was also rewarding to see many new cross-sector connections developing through explorations of 500 Cities data, which informed the team’s methodology throughout the project.
During the workshops, attendees felt validated because the 500 Cities data mirrored the health risks that they are trying to improve in their communities. Attendees were inspired by the 500 Cities data and offered many suggestions for using it, including using the data for grant funding, telling health care stories, holding local governments accountable, and advocating for policy changes.
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta plans to integrate the 500 Cities data in its Atlanta neighborhood profiles so local community organizations can monitor health risks as they improve health outcomes. The foundation also plans to assist local government partners by adding additional local data layers to the storymaps so they can identify other health risks and spatial patterns.
WHAT THEY RECOMMEND FOR SIMILAR PROJECTS
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has identified the following recommendations for organizations interested in pursuing similar approaches to using the 500 Cities data in their communities:
- Invite cross-sector stakeholders, especially those in higher education. We conducted online research on all public health, urban planning, and health management professors and staff and invited them to our workshops. They contributed immensely to the conversations and added depth that otherwise would not have been possible.
- Work outside your normal geographic area. By working in three cities (Atlanta is our home city), we gained knowledge, friends, and lasting coalitions. We also learned about the institutional and structural inequities that provided needed backstory to the 500 Cities data.
- We highly recommend conducting community partnership development meetings. We garnered invaluable knowledge about the community’s primary concerns, what days would be best to hold the community workshop to ensure maximum attendance, and who else should be invited to the table, and most importantly, many organizations agreed to serve as our official community partners to continue advancing the work.
- Use the most current neighborhood-level data, whether from local government or private sources. This makes a difference when trying to tell the story about how community assets/amenities (or the lack thereof) contribute to the health risks identified in the 500 Cities data.
- Always plan for those who are less technically inclined. A hard copy of a city map with the 500 Cities data overlaid can serve as a knowledge-building tool.
- Account for unforeseen project challenges. The biggest and most unexpected challenge we encountered was a partner requiring multiple levels of IRB approval for the community survey after committing to distributing the survey.
To learn more about Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s work, visit Georgia Healthy Cities on Facebook. If you are interested in learning more about this team’s project approach or have specific questions regarding replicating their work in your community, please feel free to contact the Principal Investigator of this project, Bernita Smith.