In the coming months, over 15,000 Connecticut residents will be asked about their health, happiness and quality of life — three focal points of DataHaven’s 2018 Community Wellbeing Survey.
After launching its first Community Wellbeing Survey in 2015, DataHaven — a public service nonprofit dedicated to gathering data for community organizations in Connecticut — is conducting a follow-up survey, which began this month. Through collaboration with more than 75 partner groups, this year’s campaign will encompass every town in the state, making it the “largest-ever survey on neighborhood-level quality of life, health, and happiness,” according to the DataHaven website.
“The topics measured in the survey are generally things that we can’t measure from other public data sources,” said Mark Abraham ’04, executive director of DataHaven. “Many times, towns or neighborhoods that are trying to address or highlight an issue in their community … have the trouble of finding data that is relevant to everyone who lives in that neighborhood, so [the survey] fills in the gaps in what’s available.”
The aim of the survey, a 19-minute questionnaire conducted via telephone, is to gather data on the issues that are most indicative of a person’s well-being. For example, respondents may be asked about their trust in government, satisfaction with local infrastructure and economic security. DataHaven will then publicize the collected data so that community organizations can use it to identify trends and inform policy priorities.
Data from the survey may have far-reaching implications, especially in the face of housing instability, transportation reform and the opioid epidemic in Connecticut. According to Brita Roy, director of Population Health at Yale Medicine and a board member of DataHaven, the survey will help health systems tailor strategies to specific communities, an approach that could lower rates of opioid addiction. Moreover, Roy hopes that the survey will offer insight into the root causes of opioid use.
“We’re planning to use the data to help us better understand risk factors, to be able to stratify our patient population, so we understand where the sickest people are or where patients have especially some of the greatest social needs,” Roy said. “Basically, we aim to use the data to better tailor programs to fit the needs of patients to keep them healthy.”
For hospitals and health care organizations that often rely on census and electronic records for data, the survey may also prove useful in identifying social determinants of health in local neighborhoods. Roy said the survey could help identify transportation barriers that prevent health care access, which would encourage future collaboration with shuttles or ride-sharing services — a strategy that health systems have implemented in the past.
DataHaven and its partners, such as the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, have taken to radio, social media and local newspapers, galvanizing people to “answer the call and help improve your community.” The foundation also anticipates working with DataHaven to produce a Community Index Report, which is slated for publication in April 2019. This index will include data compiled from a variety of sources, including this year’s survey.
According to Christina Ciociola, senior vice president at the foundation, the report may encourage more strategic leveraging of resources and investments, as well as validate how people feel about their neighborhoods.
“What’s really unique about this survey and important is that it allows us to hear from individuals about their experience and how they’re feeling about their well-being and the vitality of their community,” Ciociola said. “It’s really important to have their voices, and DataHaven has provided us with a way to get those voices and to incorporate them.”
In the past, the Community Foundation and DataHaven — long-standing partner organizations — have created reports about the Connecticut shoreline, as well as indices for the New Haven area. Yale Medicine, another partner organization of DataHaven, has helped to fund the Community Wellbeing Surveys in 2015 and 2018.
“Each of our missions is to increase the impact of community philanthropy in the region,” Ciociola said. “An important way for us to do that is through sharing information and knowledge about what’s happening in the community, what the needs are and where the opportunities are.”
DataHaven was founded in 1992.
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