New Publication Outlines Methods for Generating Subcounty Health Data

April 17, 2020
Small-Area Data epidemiology Health Disparities community health needs assessment

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R) provides valuable data on health determinants and outcomes at the county level, but more granular information at the subcounty level is often needed to truly understand and address the health needs of a community. In the past decade, county-level data for health-related measures have been made broadly available nationwide, however, subcounty data is needed to identify health disparities within counties that county-level data may not detect, and to target, monitor, and evaluate public health interventions. Hospitals and local health departments are increasingly interested in accessing subcounty data, and initiatives like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the national Public Health Accreditation Board require community health needs assessments and community health improvement plans that often rely on subcounty data.

A new article published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice outlines methods and recommendations for generating subcounty health data products based on the CHR&R model. The article, “Generating Subcounty Health Data Products: Methods and Recommendations From a Multistate Pilot Initiative,” is co-authored by Trang Q. Nguyen, Isaac H. Michaels, Dulce Bustamante-Zamora, Brian Waterman, Elna Nagasako, Yunshu Li, Marjory L. Givens, and Keith Gennuso.

The authors, who represent research teams in California, Missouri, New York, and at the University of Wisconsin, used 12 data sources to produce 40 subcounty measures that replicate or approximate county-level measures from the CHR&R model. Using various technical methods, the pilot projects followed similar stages: (1) conceptual development of data sources and measures; (2) analysis and presentation of small-area and subpopulation measures for public health, health care, and lay audiences; and (3) positioning the subcounty data initiatives for growth and sustainability. The authors also developed a compendium of technical resources, including samples of automated programs for analyzing and reporting subcounty data.

The article outlines the common themes shared by all three pilot projects, as well as the unique technical considerations and challenges involved in subcounty data analyses. It also provides lessons learned and proposed recommendations for prospective analysts of subcounty data, based on the experiences, successes, and challenges of the pilot projects.

Article Citation:
Nguyen TQ, Michaels IH, Bustamante-zamora D, et al. Generating Subcounty Health Data Products: Methods and Recommendations From a Multistate Pilot Initiative. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2020.

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