As reported by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), life expectancy in the U.S. decreased in 2021 to 76.1 years, nearly a year less than in 2020. Along with COVID-19, drug overdose deaths topped the list of negative factors contributing to the prediction. So, what can be done to improve this outcome and the state of public health in general? It is known that improving public and community health is not something that will happen overnight, but the national objectives to improve health and well-being in the U.S., as outlined in the Healthy People 2030 goals, allow communities to assess their current health status and build an agenda for community health improvement.
One thing the healthcare sector seems to agree on is that collecting, analyzing and publicizing community health data is vital to improving community health. However, many community organizations, healthcare officials, and agencies may not be aware of the best practices for applying this data to support health outcomes. Some may struggle to use health data to address the social determinants of health (SDoH). On the local level, many do not know where to look within their community for valuable health resources and data about their neighborhoods.
How One Community is Using Data to Tackle Addiction
Although the understanding of the SDoH’s connection to health outcomes has improved over the years, addressing community health and wellness concerns and putting the data into action has not yet been implemented consistently across the United States. One example of how streamlining quality reporting on locally collected data and implementing focused strategies can help improve public health is Franklin County, Ohio, through its Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Evaluation System (CARES).
Developed by Franklin County Public Health (FCPH) using the Conduent Healthy Communities Institute (HCI) Platform, Franklin County CARES is a collaboration among community agencies and stakeholders to act against the growing opioid epidemic and its impact on Franklin County. The focused platform provides a publicly available one-stop resource for data on addiction, recovery, and the overall health status of the community, offering data on Franklin County demographics and health behaviors alongside data from partners working with the community. These data provide insight into the risk factors, health outcomes, SDoH, and prevention and outreach efforts related to overdose and addiction in the community. The CARES platform enables users to assess data within specific jurisdictions in Franklin County, providing timely and targeted assessments of the health status of specific geographic areas. CARES also provides access to a database of funding opportunities, promising practices, and community health resources to assist FCPH, community partners, and community members in finding the resources needed to address substance use disorder and other health-related issues in the community.
Funding support is partially provided through the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) Grant, a four-year cooperative agreement funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OD2A focuses on the complex and changing nature of the drug overdose epidemic as well as highlights the need for an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and cohesive public health approach.
With overall public health improvement in focus, addressing a data-proven key contributor to premature death in Franklin County—overdose and addiction—is a logical place to invest resources for the betterment of the community. Developed using Conduent’s community and population health solutions, Franklin County CARES uses the platform’s Health Equity Index to identify geographic areas with the highest relative socioeconomic need to support the equitable distribution of resources and make interventions more impactful. Using the platform to identify basic health needs in Franklin County, the FCPH team is able to implement data-driven strategies to address substance misuse and provide residents with effective tools and resources to improve overall community health and quality of life.
How It Works
Franklin County CARES currently provides data, geographic comparisons, and national and local benchmarks for 279 indicators, alongside examples of community health interventions across the country and funding opportunities to put the data into action. These data allow residents, community organizations, local officials, and more to determine where to best allocate time and energy in community health improvement efforts. The Promising Practices database on CARES is an excellent resource to inform professionals and community members about proven approaches to improving community health and how these examples can be tailored and implemented locally. The database provides over two thousand examples ranging from community-based programs with limited evaluation to peer-reviewed, evidence-based interventions with quantitative results.
Conduent’s HCI Platform provides the technology and tools to streamline data tracking and reporting. This supports communities to implement targeted programs and strategically improve local health outcomes with evidence-based approaches. The integration of comprehensive platforms, like HCI, allows community agencies and stakeholders to make data-informed decisions, identify health needs, and empower residents with the necessary information and resources to improve community health and quality of life.
The data for Franklin County CARES come from a variety of state and national sources, including the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Community Survey and many Ohio-specific sources, with most data updated annually. Additionally, for select data sources, such as nonfatal overdoses, fatal overdoses, 911 dispatches, and justice diversion programs, data are collected directly from local agencies and services in Franklin County.
About Franklin County CARES and Community Partners
The Franklin County Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Evaluation System (CARES) was developed by Franklin County Public Health (FCPH) using the Conduent Healthy Communities Institute (HCI) Platform, in collaboration with various community agencies and stakeholders, in response to the growing opioid epidemic and its impact on the local community in Franklin County. The development of CARES was made possible by funding through the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant received by FCPH from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Overdose Prevention (DOP), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC).