Data Moves at the Speed of Trust: Cross-sector Data Sharing to Support Community Violence Prevention  

We built stakeholder trust and engagement through a series of interviews and group discussions and used results to design a responsive strategy for cross-sector data sharing.

Solutions to complex public health challenges are increasingly reliant on cross-sector collaboration between public health, healthcare, governmental and nonprofit entities. Data sharing can broaden the scope of work and improve the collective impact of these partnerships; however, the burden of technological and legal infrastructure is often prohibitive. Integrated data systems offer a solution to data silos — built as a network of partnerships to link administrative data across entities. Although widely available, these solutions are not one-dimensional and involve the same power-dynamics and engagement challenges that can inhibit success across all areas of collaboration.

In our recent article, “A Replicable, Solution-Focused Approach to Cross-Sector Data Sharing for Evaluation of Community Violence Prevention Programming,” my colleagues and I share a method of stakeholder engagement to achieve data sharing using a local integrated data system.

Our collaborative is focused on community violence – a recognized public health issue that is disproportionately concentrated in communities of color and perpetuated through structural racism. We invited stakeholders from public health, governmental, education, and healthcare sectors to participate in a series of interviews and group discussions about data sharing. Results were used to design a responsive strategy to share data for evaluation of community violence prevention programs. This work was supported in part by the Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH) Mentor 3.0 Program.

Building Stakeholder Engagement

Our approach was informed by in-depth stakeholder interviews, which took place alongside a literature review and a series of facilitated discussions. Throughout each step, information was used to engage and empower stakeholders. Select key learnings are described below:

Power and representation

Some individuals and organizations have had negative experiences with data collection and data sharing. Group dynamics can also be disempowering for some voices and reflect ongoing social and resource inequity. To ensure representation of perspectives and experiences, we conducted individual stakeholder interviews and brought anonymous results to the larger group for discussion and synthesis.

Legal and ethical implications

Even with the legal and technological protections offered by advanced solutions, there is still a risk of disclosure and identification. This risk is particularly salient for communities of color, which, because of the interconnected relationship between poverty and racism, are disproportionately represented in data related to violence and other health disparities.

Furthermore, outside of disclosure there is still a risk of contributing to the existing stigma surrounding communities of color represented in the data. Stakeholders identified solutions as: (1) engaging communities represented in the data in data analysis, interpretation, and dissemination; (2) providing historical context with the data; and (3) creating structures that allow the communities represented by the data to participate in the decision-making process for data use.

Key Implications

As technology continues to advance and integrated platforms become the standard across public, social, and commercial settings, opportunities to join disparate data sources will expand. While integrated data offers many advantages to tackling complex, public health issues like community violence, users must be vigilant against further entrenching the inequities we are attempting to solve. Regardless of the technological capacity, data sharing must be built on a foundation of trust that is earned and deserved.

Read for FREE

Learn More:

Author Profile

Carlene A. Mayfield
Carlene A. Mayfield, PhD, MPH – Director of Impact Evaluation and Grants Management for Atrium Health’s Department of Community Health – leads evaluation and grant operations in support of clinical and community-based programming to improve health equity. Dr. Mayfield’s research includes the application of novel evaluation strategies and related technological innovations for complex data integration and management.