Data in Action
How are you using the data from kidsdata.org?
Data can be a powerful tool to improve the health and well being of children, families, and communities. Data can be used to assess needs, set priorities, develop action plans, inform programs and policies, track progress, support grant proposals, strengthen advocacy efforts, raise awareness of key issues, and more.
Tell Us Your Story
Please tell us how you used Kidsdata to become a part of the kidsdata.org story.
"Kidsdata has been so valuable to NovatoSpirit. I have used the data in grant proposals and other donor communications. I have also been able to present it to audiences interested in Novato children's mental and physical health, including the Novato Blue Ribbon Coalition for Youth, the Coalition's Bullying Subcommittee, the City of Novato, Novato Unified School District, doctors at the Marin Community Clinics and others." – Marian Schinske, Founder and Executive Director, NovatoSpirit
Marian also cited Kidsdata during an interview with a local Marin County radio station. Read more on our blog
Kids in Common used Kidsdata in its 2017 Santa Clara County Children's Agenda and Data Book (PDF), citing data on demographics, food security, and homelessness. The Data Book provides a summary of how children are faring in Santa Clara County and offers recommendations for how to address disparities.
"I am a guest speaker at California State University, Channel Islands for their public health nursing program on child abuse recognition. I use data from Kidsdata to present child abuse statistics to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) students to give them a better understanding of the incidence of child abuse in their specific area. It helps me illustrate local conditions compared to other regions while informing them that child abuse is a problem in their local area—not just a phenomenon that happens elsewhere."
– Diane Emerick, Program Manager, In-Home Support Services, Adult Protective Service, Rx for Kids Program, Child Welfare
"We use Kidsdata in the last 10 weeks of our Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) classes so that parents can analyze demographic trends around children and performance around education and health. Parents have used this data to start community gardens, parent support groups, and youth enrichment activities. Here in Stockton, one parent used the data to start a program for young African American kids because she said the data showed they are underserved and not performing as well as the other minorities. One grandma used the data to start a grandparent volunteer program at her school. We have three counties in the state doing PLTI work and all the parents use Kidsdata as their data source."
– Zulema Gomez, Program Supervisor, Family Resource and Referral Center, San Joaquin County
Michael Fischetti, MD, MPH, a member of the Santa Clara County Health Advisory Commission and a director of Hope's Corner Kitchen, uses Kidsdata to advocate for the homeless youth population in Mountain View. Dr. Fischetti cited Kidsdata in a guest editorial in the local paper and used it during a presentation to the Mountain View City Council, which motivated action resulting in a city-wide task force designed to tackle the issue of homelessness in the area.
"The City Council is slow to appreciate and act on statements without data. In my opinion, Kidsdata's information on homeless kids in our city was responsible for the awareness and action—no data, no action!"
“The resources on Kidsdata helped tremendously with our efforts to provide statistical information about our community for an upcoming five-year agency campaign to raise funds. We focused on data regarding high school 'drop-out' rates, student support services, teen dating violence, and disparity in college eligibility in Orange County. This site has a wealth of resources and I don't know how we could have provided these findings without Kidsdata!”
– Cathleen Chase, Program Manager, Girls Incorporated of Orange County
“I have used Kidsdata since it was first developed. It's important to have a credible resource for data that describes the need for our services. The localized, topic-specific information gives donors confidence that we understand our field. We believe that data is a critical component to the stories we share with our community.
We passed a statewide resolution declaring the month of September as Food Literacy Month in California. 40% of Sacramento-area kids suffer from childhood obesity. We used kidsdata.org to find that statistic.”
– Amber K. Stott, Chief Food Genius & Founder, Food Literacy Center
Children Now used Kidsdata in its 2016 California Children's Report Card—a summary and analysis of the status of kids in California. The Report Card highlights areas where the state has fallen short in addressing the needs of California children and provides policy recommendations to help improve their health and well-being.
“CASA of Tulare County uses kidsdata.org for presentations, trainings, and social media marketing. Kidsdata.org is well organized and easy to use. There are a variety of ways to obtain the data you need relative to your area, to your state, and nationwide. Thanks Kidsdata.org for not only the wealth of information, but the ease of accessibility to that information as well.”
– Anthony Guerra, PR & Marketing Coordinator, CASA of Tulare County
“Kidsdata.org is an invaluable resource for the March of Dimes Imperial County Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait project and our efforts to help moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. The site offers access to the most current county level demographic and health data in an easy to use and understandable format. Kidsdata.org allows our project to compile critical data that is often not readily available for our county into community profiles that support grant proposals and effectively focus maternal child priorities to guide our collaborative efforts within the community. Kidsdata.org helps support the March of Dimes work to end premature birth and other problems that threaten our babies. ”
– Cheryl Anderson, Project Director, Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait Project, March of Dimes
In her role as a Community Manager and Data Specialist with ACEs Connection Network, Gail Kennedy, MPH, discovered that kidsdata.org was the source for nearly all of the data used in communities—from schools to county health departments to local NGOs. When gathering data at the community level, kidsdata.org is her one-stop, easy to use repository of data.
In addition, she has seen kidsdata.org used in presentations to school boards, county health commissions, county board of supervisors, and First 5 commissions. When members of the Essentials for Childhood Data Workgroup were discussing possible ways to display data on a state-wide level, the group held up kidsdata.org as a desirable and replicable model when they considered adding an additional child well-being variable.
“I talk with people at all different levels, and they all use it because it's so easy to use. I can't imagine other counties not doing what Yolo does, which is go directly to your site.” – Gail Kennedy, MPH, Community Manager and Data Specialist, ACEs Connection Network
“I find kidsdata.org a uniquely valuable source for the most important kind of information about children's health. I use it extensively for teaching Child Psychiatry fellows at Stanford, and I share it with colleagues in other parts of the the country. For example, most recently I have been forwarding your posts to friends and colleagues at Riverside County Child Mental Health. This is a program that is going to great lengths to be responsive to the combined medical and mental health needs of children in their region. They use this information to develop innovative systems of care approaches to the information you collect about their county. Despite their diligence, they always ask how on earth kidsdata obtains such fantastically practical information about children in their county that does not seem to be available through more local sources.”
– Carl Feinstein, MD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University Medical Center
Since 2008, the Kern County Medically Vulnerable Care Coordination Project (MVCCP) has helped improve the lives of Kern County infants and children, 0-5 years of age, with special health care needs (CSHCN). MVCCP uses kidsdata.org to compile county level data related to CSHCN, premature births, insurance coverage, demographics, and poverty, which MVCCP uses to inform its partner organizations and to focus priorities. MVCCP also uses kidsdata reports to help plan its Annual Conference.
“We rely on kidsdata.org to compile critical data and reports to highlight Kern County needs and to guide our collaborative efforts.” – Marc R. Thibault, MA, MVCCP Project Leader
The California School-Based Health Alliance uses kidsdata.org to help plan programs with school-based health centers (SBHC), which help children stay healthy so they can learn. They use kidsdata to highlight areas of need in California, such as health and educational outcomes, where school-based health care can make a difference.
“Kidsdata helps us see ways we can improve health and academic success for California's kids.” – Lisa Eisenberg, MPP/MSW, Senior Policy Analyst
In 2014, HYP leveraged the easily-downloadable visualizations on kidsdata.org to enhance their legislative issue brief, webinars, blog post, and data packets that were distributed to legislators across the state. This, combined with kidsdata.org’s communication efforts, resulted in increased media interest (more than 15 articles in reputable media outlets, including NPR), invited presentations, congressional hearings, and increased interest among state legislators in child homelessness, leading to at least four substantive bills on homeless children and youth this session. HYP’s collaborative effort continues to serve as a prime example of how kidsdata.org uses partnerships to bolster advocacy efforts and effect policy changes.
“We have greatly benefited from collaboration with kidsdata.org. They were able to take our data on student homelessness and turn it into a dynamic, visually appealing map that was useful for community members, media, and policymakers alike.” – Shahera Hyatt, Director of the California Homeless Youth Project
|The Kern County Network for Children used kidsdata.org and other data sources in their 2015 Report Card on the status of children and families. The report raises awareness of key issues affecting children in the county and offers recommendations for readers.|
The United Way of the Bay Area uses kidsdata.org to bolster grant proposals and the agency's community library. India Swearingen, the agency's evaluation and insight director, frequently uses the narrative context that accompanies every indicator. “I like the text that explains why the data is important – too often, we put out metrics and don't explain their importance,” she says. While she also uses other data sites, they're not as user-friendly as kidsdata and often don't provide data at the county level as kidsdata does.
“There's absolutely no doubt that kidsdata.org has helped us get several grants and start lots of conversations in the community. ”
Aided by a 2012 grant from the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network used information from kidsdata.org to create fact sheets highlighting the health needs of California's diverse communities. More recently, the nonprofit organization has used kidsdata to highlight health disparities among California children in its advocacy regarding the new local control funding formula for public schools.
“It's very useful for our fellow advocates to know the needs of the communities where they live. It’s been a great resource. Any time we need data, kidsdata is the first place we go.”
At the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, grants administrator Neil Zarchin uses healthy weight and obesity data from kidsdata.org to demonstrate regional needs in grant applications and to highlight the impact of the agency's programs. For example, Zarchin has examined trends in this data to track the beneficial effects of the food bank's distribution of fresh produce to schools in low-income neighborhoods. In addition, he notes, “kidsdata has helped us win some funding.”
"Kidsdata is so helpful to our organization. Thank you!”
First 5 Marin used a special feature offered by kidsdata.org to post statistics about young children in Marin County on their website at www.First5Marin.org. Now visitors to their website can get information from kidsdata.org about preschool rates, child care costs, immunizations, children living in poverty, special needs and much more.
Michelle Fadelli, First 5 Marin’s Policy and Communications Manager, says, “Kidsdata.org is an invaluable resource. It’s like having your own consultant—for free!”
Crafting a Message for Data-Driven Change
What is your purpose?
A strategic step toward communicating about children’s health and well-being is being explicit about your purpose. In addition to clarifying your purpose, understand your social, economic, and political environment as you develop a strategy to use data for change. Consider:
What is a clear statement of your issue? Concisely state the issue.
Why does your issue matter? Answer the “so what” question for why the issue requires action. Elaborate on the problem central to your issue. Think about equity and how the issue affects your community. Use data to support your claims. Consider adding a descriptive narrative or anecdotes.
What is your proposed solution? Describe and substantiate the approach that will most effectively address the issue.
Who are the stakeholders? Stakeholders are your allies and opponents on the issue. Some examples include: policy makers, community activists, local program leaders, service providers, business owners, law enforcement staff, and health department staff. Consider why they are stakeholders, and what do they have to gain from supporting or opposing your issue.
What are the Barriers and Facilitators? What are challenges to enacting change on your issue? What is the current political climate, and what are current priorities? Is your issue a major concern when compared to other current events, and what do you need to do to elevate concern?
Who is your audience?
The data you need depend on your goal and whom you have to convince. In general, the level of complexity you use when presenting data depends on the people you are addressing.
Big Picture: Politicians, the general public and the media are audiences who tend to need information that is descriptive and quickly understandable, often from an overall perspective or big picture point of view. An example is communicating about the extent of emotional health issues among youth by showing the percentage of youth who feel depressed by demographic groups.
Details: Committee staff, special interest groups, and legislative analysts tend to want more detail than the big picture offers. This information will have more layers to it; often the audience understands the general idea but does not understand the details. An example is communicating about access to mental health care services by identifying the percentage of youth who receive mental health care among those who need treatment.
Specifics: Government agencies and academic institutions often need data to be more focused or detailed. Funding or planning decisions may be based on these numbers. An example is communicating about the impact of mental health instability on hospitals by examining categories of hospitalization discharge rates by type and age group.
How will the data support your message?
Some common values that data can address are access, equity, rights, quality, and cost:
- Access—who has access to services, programs, insurance, etc.? Who doesn’t?
- Equity—is there an equitable distribution of resources across groups or regions?
- Rights—what are the rights of community members? What laws, regulations, or constitutional protections confer rights? On whom are the rights conferred?
- Quality—how is quality of life, environment, services, and programs impacted?
- Cost—what is the cost to taxpayers, community, business, individuals, and others?
If data are not available for your message, what can you do?
“Proxy” measures are data that can substitute for the data you need because they are closely related to your issue. For example, you may want to improve college readiness among youth in your county. You could use the percentage of students taking college preparatory classes as a proxy of college readiness and make a statement such as, “College readiness among students in our county may be lower than for California students overall, as suggested by a lower rate of college prep course completion in our school districts.”
A major advantage of using proxy measures is its low cost. The data can be relatively easy and inexpensive to find or collect. However, there may be concerns with generalizability. You will need to judge whether the data are a suitable proxy and be transparent about your approach.
Can you combine quantitative and qualitative data?
Quantitative data are usually measured and expressed in the form of numbers, rates or percentages. These data answer questions of who, what, when and where.
Qualitative data are usually measured and expressed in the form of words, concepts, themes, or categories. Qualitative data are often used to gain a more in-depth understanding of a particular incident or phenomenon - answering how or why something is occurring. You might use a descriptive narrative or an anecdote.
Combining quantitative and qualitative data
strengthens messages. When possible, collect both
kinds of data and use them in your work because
they serve two different functions when attempting
to paint a complete picture of your issue. For
example, you may collect quantitative data on
percentage of youth who receive mental health care
among those who need it and collect qualitative
information through interviews, focus groups or
surveys with open-ended questions about why
some youth don’t receive the care they need.
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Five Criteria for Good Data
Data have the power to transform the way we see the world, from identifying health disparities to strengthening a case for policy change. When determining the best data to support your work, consider the five criteria below: correlation versus causation, credibility, reliability, generalizability and timeliness. Remember, no data are perfect. Use your best judgment and be transparent.
1. Correlation Versus Causation
Correlation refers to two findings that are associated. Causation refers to one finding causing another.
- Without statistical testing, do not assume how data are related. For example, number of sustantiated abuse and neglect cases and days with ozone levels above standards have both decreased since 1998. They have the same pattern but are not likely related and one does not likely cause the other. As with any two sets of indicators, you cannot make conclusions about a pattern without testing.
Credibility refers to the source of the data or who provides the data. Can you trust the entity that produced the data?
- Who paid for, sponsored, or funded the study? Could the data be biased?
- Does the data provider have a stake in a specific finding? Research sponsored by business, religious or political organizations may have missions that influence how they conduct research and interpret findings.
- What is the data provider’s reputation for research? Government and academic institutions are considered credible because research is conducted for the public benefit.
Reliability refers to the accuracy of the data. Can you trust the data?
- Has the research that produced the data been reproduced by other researchers?
- How were the data collected? Did the researchers adhere to ethical research methods?
- If the data come from a survey, is there response bias? For example, did researchers conduct their survey in different languages if they need information about immigrants?
Generalizability refers to data on a specific population that can be used for other populations.
- Generalizability depends on the way in which the data provider collected the data.
- Understand “who, what, why, when and where” of the data and consider whether the data can apply more broadly. For example, if the data describe Hispanic children, could they also describe Latin American children?
- Be cautious about claiming generalizability and be clear about how populations differ.
Timeliness refers to when the research was conducted relative to changes in the environment.
- When was the study done - one year ago, three years ago, or over 10 years ago? And, how fast are changes occurring - months or years? Some data may be relevant over a longer period of time than others.
- Often there will be a lag time, especially with big studies such as the American Community Survey (ACS). Most comprehensive surveys will be a few years old by the time findings are published.
- Even if the research seems old, it may be the best source if more recent data are not available. Admit the limitations of the data and supplement it with other closely related research.
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Telling Your Best Data Story
You have five options for visualizing and sharing data on kidsdata.org. Choose among tables, bars, trends, maps, or pies to express your message through data. Use it to monitor trends, identify disparities and make comparisons. You can use these figures in reports, presentations, proposals, advocacy work, program planning, and other efforts on behalf of children and youth in California. Note that some indicators do not have all figure types due to data limitations.
- Good choice for providing complicated numeric, percentage, or rate information.
- Useful for comparing data for various geographies, groups, or time periods.
- Good choice for comparing quantities and percentages for a single category or timeframe.
- Bars are easy to read and work well to compare differences across groups.
- Good choice to illustrate trends over time. Line movement is easy to interpret.
- Keep the figure simple by including fewer than four lines; avoid frequently overlapping lines.
- Good choice to illustrate differences across areas and to provide a broad visual of the issue.
- Demonstrates areas of need and disparity through color.
- Good choice to show each part as a proportion of a whole.
- Use for data that have few categories (typically two to five).
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More Data Tools
The following free resources offer tips, guidance, and strategies for effectively using data as a tool for change.
- Community Tool Box
- County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Take Action Center
- Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health
- Forum Guide to Taking Action with Education Data
- Resource Center for Community Health Assessments and Health Improvement Plans
- Understanding Evidence
- U.S. Census Bureau Guidance for Using the American Community Survey
Here are some additional free websites that may be useful in your work.
- American Fact Finder
- California Child Welfare Indicators Project
- California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool
- California Department of Education DataQuest
- California Health & Human Services Open Data Portal
- California Health Interview Survey
- California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey (CAL-SCHLS) System
- CDC Wonder
- Child Trends DataBank
- Community Commons
- County Health Calculator
- County Health Rankings & Roadmaps
- Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health
- Food Environment Atlas
- Health Indicators Warehouse
- Healthy City
- Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts
- Kids Count Data Center
- Migration Policy Institute Data Hub
- National Center for Education Statistics
- Open Health Data Consortium
- Population Reference Bureau Data Finder
Tips on Using Kidsdata.org
With millions of statistics about the health and well being of children across California, kidsdata.org can be used for policy or program planning, community needs assessments, reports, presentations, grant proposals, advocacy, media stories, and other efforts on behalf of children and families.
Here are some tips to get the most out of kidsdata.org:
- Look for the “Download & Other Tools” option right above the tables, graphs and maps, such as on this page.
Click there and you’ll find the following tools to incorporate data into your work:
- Embed your table, graph or map into your website. The chart will update automatically when data are added to kidsdata.org.
- Copy your graphs into Word or PowerPoint to include in a report or presentation.
- Download data into Excel and make your own charts and graphs.
- Generate a PDF overview for that particular topic.
- Share your data via Facebook, Twitter, or Email using the options below any table or graph on pages like this.
- Scroll below any topic or indicator to see additional data available and to get context for your data, including policy implications, summaries of why the topic is important, and links to websites and reports with more information.
- Build your own data profile for your county, city, or school district. In the Data by Region section of kidsdata.org, look for the “Create Custom Profile” link right below your selected location’s name. There, you can choose the specific measures of interest to you and create your own custom data profile.
- Click here to get printable, ready-made fact sheets for any topic, region, or demographic group on kidsdata.org.
- See the Help page for more tips on using kidsdata.org.
Want to receive a training on how to use kidsdata.org? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to include your location.
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