Maximizing the educational experience and success of every child in America must be a priority to create healthier, more equitable communities. But how can community leaders make sense of the plethora of data that exists in order to make sound decisions that promote healthy child and adolescent development?
Fortunately, a new resource, the City Health Dashboard, is now available. As my colleague previously blogged, this online resource, developed with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was unveiled earlier this year by NYU Langone Health, an academic medical center in New York City. The dashboard integrates data from multiple sources, including electronic health records, published literature, surveys, U.S. Census reports, administrative records, vital registration systems, and disease registries, into an interactive web-based database to track trends in health and health-related metrics at the city level.
The dashboard places key city- and neighborhood-level data for 36 health-related metrics into the hands of municipal policymakers and community leaders of America’s 500 largest cities—those with populations of about 66,000 or more. This is important because more than 80 percent of America’s residents live in urban areas.
Since education plays a vital role in community health and well-being, the dashboard includes three education measures that local child health and education advocates can use when assessing community needs and contributing to city health priority-setting and decision-making processes. These include:
- Third-Grade Reading Proficiency: This measure is a predictor of future academic success and health literacy because it marks when a child switches from learning to read to reading to learn. Early reading skills have a significant relationship with high school graduation rates, employability, and adult health literacy—all key factors to setting children on a path to a flourishing life.
- High School Graduation Rate: This metric provides a window into children’s and adolescents’ future well-being because students who graduate high school report lower levels of chronic health conditions, incarceration, and unemployment, later in life. Racial and ethnic minorities, English language learners, low-income students, and students with disabilities have lower high school graduation rates compared to other students. It is imperative that we improve high school graduation rates to reduce health inequalities and achieve health equity.
- Chronic Absenteeism: Absenteeism can be a red flag for poor student health, potential mental health disorders and/or emotional or financial health challenges at home for children. This measure matters because chronic absenteeism puts children at risk for poor education and health outcomes. Children who are frequently absent in pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade are less likely to read at grade level by third grade, and older students who are frequently absent are at greater risk for substance abuse, violence, and delinquency. Daily school attendance is vital to helping students thrive and succeed in life.
The dashboard provides detailed information about why these three education measures matter to healthy child and adolescent development, how they track these metrics, including their strengths and limitations, the formulas used to calculate these metrics, and the data sources they draw upon. Links to evidence-informed strategies and resources to help improve reading skills, encourage regular school attendance, and promote high school graduation for the children and adolescents in your community are also provided.
I encourage you to learn more about the City Health Dashboard and explore how these education metrics and the other metrics provided in this online resource can support your data-driven child health and education advocacy efforts.
Want to take data to action? Check out the dashboard’s compendium of evidence-based policies and programs for improving health in your community.