The Massachusetts Department of Public Health works to make data and analytics available to identify disparities in health outcomes, risk factors, and social determinants of health (SDOHs). The goal is to support action toward improved health equity and optimal health for all. The Population Health Information Tool (PHIT) empowers people to analyze data in ways that generate actionable community-level improvement strategies. Previously, PHIT contained Community Reports for five SDOHs (Built Environment, Education, Employment, Housing, and Social Environment). The department wanted to add a report on violence (a sixth SDOH), but was challenged by the complex, interdisciplinary nature of the topic and the diverse array of interested parties. The department was also in the process of creating a new approach to reporting data. MDPH enlisted ERG to navigate these challenges to design a cohesive-yet-flexible approach and produce clearance-ready materials.
ERG began this project by reviewing different definitions and typologies of violence and establishing a framework that would be meaningful to communities. We then analyzed existing department resources on violence as an SDOH, conducted a comprehensive literature review, drafted metrics that could help communities understand root causes of different types of violence, and identified suitable data sources—recognizing that the report needed to present data at multiple levels of aggregation and across multiple dimensions of diversity.
To ensure that content on violence would respectfully capture root causes and impacts of concern to public health entities, providers, community members, and advocates, ERG facilitated input sessions with a diverse array of interested parties both within and outside MDPH. In the end, this enabled us to prepare text, data sources, metrics, data visualizations, possible interventions, and references in a flexible format that is accessible to diverse audiences.