Civic Engagement and Policy Interventions

New Haven, CT
United States

DataHaven and Purple States TV, in partnership with local public health departments and community-based organizations in Hartford, New Haven, and the Naugatuck Valley, led a process to create multiple short-form documentary videos that integrate personal stories to bring implications of USALEEP data and other small-area health data to life. This project gave residents a chance to further document and showcase the health inequities they experience by sharing their stories through video storytelling.




DataHaven collected and analyzed granular neighborhood-level USALEEP data on life expectancy plus corresponding neighborhood-level information it created for partners using locally-available death records, other administrative data, and high-quality surveys. Findings were presented back to interdisciplinary groups and project partners in Hartford, New Haven, and the Naugatuck Valley to allow for rich discussion, networking and dialogue that interpreted these data. DataHaven also included analysis of USALEEP data in multiple statewide and local reports in 2019 and 2020, including regional health assessments, neighborhood profiles, and a statewide health equity report.

Once each site had identified a primary life expectancy theme and contributing factors, Purple States worked with local partners to identify storytellers whose experience would fill out the picture reflected in the data. Data points were incorporated in the filmed interviews with each featured resident, as appropriate to their circumstances -- but the discussion focused on the storyteller’s own perceptions within that general framework. In the editing process, Purple States used the DataHaven analysis to contextualize and generalize the individual stories in ways appropriate to the particular video format and intended use, while seeking to ensure that the videos remained flexible and evergreen, not focused too specifically on a particular data point. And it was the storytellers themselves who determined the emphasis and some of the specific themes and strategies featured in the videos: for example (in New Haven), how economic opportunity -- restricted as it is by race and place -- affects food security, and the importance of providing SNAP benefits to working families.

Detailed data has been or will be incorporated primarily in the context of distribution of Powering Healthy Lives in Connecticut, and in different ways for the three types of video that we produced:

  • Data-points and graphics about the health, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were used to frame self-filmed footage in our COVID-19 Reckonings series, published in mid-2020, and more extensive data was brought to bear on the featured issue in a series of accompanying DataHaven op-eds in the Connecticut Mirror.
  • For the three mini-documentaries created once in-person filming could resume in fall 2020, each documentary features a map that conveys life expectancy disparities; relevant data is woven into the narratives.
  • Very little data has been included in the short, framed clips. Non-profit and health department partners -- with ongoing assistance from DataHaven -- will add timely and relevant data points in captions, social media posts, information on websites, etc, when these much shorter videos are circulated.


USALEEP data are a rich source of information for local partners, especially when layered with other local health information on the causes of life expectancy disparities within specific neighborhoods or communities. Creating storytelling opportunities like this video project provides another way to interpret the data, allowing residents to ultimately lead the way in making the case for the importance of health equity.



DataHaven has identified a few recommendations for organizations interested in conducting similar projects centering in the USALEEP data, outlined below:

  • Work closely with local partners such as health departments, hospitals, community-based organizations, and area residents when thinking about how to distribute these data most effectively. By engaging partners, more useful products can be designed.
  • Contextualize USALEEP data with other local data, especially death records that identify causes of lost life, which can vary in unexpected ways by neighborhood, race/ethnicity, age, and gender. For neighborhood-level data that corresponds to the granularity of USALEEP data, analyses of death records over 5-10 year periods are generally needed.
  • Aggregate USALEEP data to larger areas if neighborhood-scale are not available or if partners are more concerned with town- and regional-level differences than local differences.

To learn more, follow @ctdata on Twitter. 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, Mark Abraham.