Designing Data Dashboards to Build Community Engagement Around Young People’s Well-Being  

This entry is part 9 of 17 in the series July 2023

Data dashboards can engage communities and drive policy improvements to support children’s health and well-being, so long as these tools are co-designed with communities and tailored to local context.

Population health data plays an essential role in supporting several of the core functions of public health, including assessment, monitoring, and education of the public. In recent years, the data dashboard has grown in popularity as a means of serving these functions. However, we believe these tools can go beyond these current uses. More specifically, dashboards can support cross-sector community coalitions, collaborative learning networks, and iterative community-led innovation and improvement efforts. In our article titled, “Dashboards as Mechanisms for Community Empowerment: Developing a Prototype for Child and Adolescent Well-being in California,” my colleagues and I offer our thoughts and experiences with how dashboards might be designed to more effectively mobilize communities to advocate for policy actions that support young people in California.

What we did:
  • We performed a literature review documenting previous and current efforts in the U.S. and internationally to measure well-being among young people. Based on the results of this review, we constructed a dashboard using data available at the local level in California.
  • We presented these findings to an advisory panel of experts representing a diverse range of organizations and perspectives over the course of many smaller meetings and two larger group summits held virtually. We asked for feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of our approach, as well as advice on how to build and disseminate these products to achieve more broader usage within the state.
What we found:
  • Dashboards are well-suited to present information on complex and multidimensional constructs such as well-being. In the prototype dashboard we developed, we organized measures into the following broad categories: child-centric outcomes, subjective well-being measures, contextual determinants, developmental measures, and equity-focused measures.
  • By offering a range of data elements and options for customizations, dashboards can more actively involve users by giving them a sense of agency in determining what is important to the well-being of young people in their community.
  • By highlighting data elements that are currently unavailable at the state or local level, dashboards can draw attention to aspects of well-being that are poorly tracked at present.

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Figures: Prototype Dashboard for Measuring Child and Adolescent Well-being in California

Among members of the advisory panel, we observed high levels of enthusiasm for rolling out these products at a local level in California. However, to live up to their envisioned usefulness, the dashboards need to be incorporated within a broader online information interface to help contextualize the data presented. This requires combining qualitative and quantitative data to enable these dashboards to contribute to a community narrative about young people’s well-being. However, the optimal strategy for accomplishing this vision will require a broader degree of input than has been received thus far. In the longer term, dashboards will need to be co-developed with users and must be consistent with human design principles, user-friendly, readily accessible, and kept up to date.

Read the article

As next steps, we plan to pilot test these projects in one or two local communities in California, so that we can collect direct feedback from users to supplement the expert-driven suggestions we have so far. One priority is to learn more about how best to reflect equity issues in these dashboards in ways that drive real improvement. In the longer term, sustainable support will also be needed to help ensure these tools are not just built as a one off and then subsequently remain on the shelf, but are instead adapted to address evolving needs and challenges faced by local stakeholders and their communities.

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Nathaniel W. Anderson is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the LAHSR Training Program at UCLA. His broad research interests are in child and adolescent population health, social policy, and mental health. He completed his Ph.D. in Health Policy and Management at UCLA and his B.A. in Mathematical Economics from Pomona College.

Shirley Russ trained as a pediatrician in the UK and Australia and completed a research doctorate at University of Melbourne.  As Senior Project Scientist for the HRSA-MCHB funded Life Course Intervention Research Network (LCIRN) she supports a national research agenda to improve children’s health trajectories for life.

Daniel Eisenberg is a Professor of Health Policy and Management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and the author of a forthcoming book on optimizing programs and policies to support children’s mental health, Investing in Children’s Mental Health (Oxford University Press, 2023).

Neal Halfon is Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, Health Policy and Management, and Public Policy at UCLA, and is the founding director of the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, where he also directs the HRSA-MCHB funded Life Course Intervention Research Network (LCIRN).

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