Facilitated participatory data analysis with community-based organizations on how different groups are experiencing the pandemic, which then informed response and recovery efforts.
Organizations across the US are trying to address health, housing, and economic disparities that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. CTData Collaborative, a nonprofit that empowers organizations to use data for informed decision-making, helped community-based organizations in the Hartford region use data to make decisions about COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
CTData Collaborative believes that informed decision-making requires an understanding of how various populations are experiencing the pandemic differently, and that this understanding can be enhanced by looking at data already being collected and shared by public institutions. Its grant work built on surveys that the University of Connecticut Department of Public Health Sciences developed with community-based organizations to identify how different groups of people adapted their behaviors in response to COVID-19 challenges and how the pandemic has affected their lives. Some of these groups include African American people, the Latinx community, people who use intravenous drugs, people who identify as LGBTQ, people with developmental disabilities, Southeast Asians, Muslims across cultural and national groups, people with HIV, and seniors in subsidized housing.
The survey responses provided insight into what different groups have accurate information about COVID-19, what preventative measures they are taking, and how their mental health and economic situations have been affected by the pandemic. With these survey results, the community-based organizations designed outreach and messaging to specific groups that needed better information about the virus and necessary safety precautions. The survey results also provided insights into issues associated with family and support dynamics experienced during social distancing. Many families’ support networks were already fragile before the pandemic, and issues related to conflict, domestic violence, and overcrowding have only worsened during the pandemic.
CTData Collaborative engaged community-based organizations in Hartford to provide them with summaries of their data to use as a communication tool with the people they serve, conducted a workshop to increase the ability of staff to use the data they collected, and collaborated on data walks to share the results and get feedback from the people who were surveyed. As a result of the data walks, the organization working with African Americans in the North End of Hartford is working on connecting their clients with primary care physicians who were identified as ‘trusted sources’ in the community. Similarly, the Sudanese House expanded partnerships to ‘trusted sources’ of COVID-19 information, which included providing flyers in Arabic to health care facilities and physicians’ offices. Having timely data gave organizations a more complete picture of the problem and helped community-based organizations respond effectively to issues affected or exacerbated by the pandemic.
Equitable data practices were at the center of how the CTData Collaborative engaged with these community-based partners. CTData Collaborative also convened an equity in data community of practice to encourage broader adoption of these equitable data practices. Members of the community of practice have many kinds of roles related to data, including data analysts, evaluators, or researchers, to data coordinators and GIS analysts, to program managers, case managers, and administrative staff. The community is continuing to meet even as the grant project ends, to continue working on integrating equitable principles in their data practices.