policy change

Igniting a Movement: 100 Million Healthier Lives

When you’re in the field working on health or community development projects, it can be a challenge to see all the pieces. Not only can it be a challenge to see your pieces, but also the pieces of work that other organizations are doing to improve health equity. How does it all fit together? Where is the overlap? The gaps? When you can’t see what other organizations are doing in your community, it can hinder efficiency and slow progress altogether.

But change agents like Dr. Soma Stout, executive lead for 100 Million Healthier Lives, see a challenge that’s ripe with opportunity.

100 Million Healthier Lives (#100MHL) is a global initiative of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). Recognizing that education, economics, the environment, agriculture and other social factors all affect health and well-being, 100 Million Healthier Lives is working to bridge these sectors together, helping the people and organizations on the ground actually see what is happening in and around their communities. From working collaboratively to forging new private-public partnerships, 100 Million Healthier Lives aims to accelerate the health improvements that can transform systems and societies.

But with such an ambitious goal, 100 Million Healthier Lives leadership knew that they needed an innovative partnership to bring their vision to life.

“We were looking at helping people think beyond their data as a set of numbers or patients, etcetera, [and] help people see the place-based relationships,” Dr. Stout explained.

To do that, 100 Million Healthier Lives and IHI turned to Community Commons.

“[Community] Commons had already built incredibly valuable databases and sources,” Stout said. “We talked with many organizations and we were looking for a partner who had a complementary vision and tools to help realize that vision. Their [Community Commons] ability to collaborate and create a common infrastructure for communities were standouts compared to other groups.”

Working together, teams from 100 Million Healthier Lives and Community Commons created “Mapping the Movement,” an interactive map that provides free, up-to-date information about the programs, services and people working in every state and around the world to improve lives and health outcomes by 2020 and beyond.

Interact with the embedded map below, or click here to enter the map room to explore the full version.

“We have around 300 partner organizations now,” said Stout. “Those partners are the ones doing the real work on the ground. [Mapping the Movement is] multiple initiatives putting their data together and making their work visible.”

Seeing the movement in action

Organizations such as SCALE, that works to increase access to healthy foods, can quickly see other organizations and individuals working on food access or other related issues in their communities. By seeing these partners, organizations can reach out, pool resources, and work towards shared goals in their communities.

“The measurement platform that we’re building and integrating allows people to integrate their data across the community. It helps facilitate the goals of 100 Million Healthier Lives, [and see] what we need to do to help communities improve as a whole,” said Stout.

Since launching, the movement has been met with sheer enthusiasm. “People have looked at it and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I had no idea that these other people were already working on this, on the same movement. I’m going to reach out and find them to see what we can do,” Stout said.

Both 100 Million Healthier Lives and Community Commons are tracking the progress and outcomes along the way. While a future analysis is planned, the daily growing list of data points on Mapping the Movement suggest that already, one part of 100 Million Healthier Lives has come to fruition.

Salud America! Receives Funding, Releases New Research in 2016

Salud America! is a nonprofit network launched in 2007 that develops multimedia communications to educate and motivate its national online network—more than 50,000 kids, parents, teachers, academics, healthcare providers, and community leaders—to take action to reduce Latino childhood obesity and build a culture of health. Community Commons is proud to partner with Salud America! in the effort to provide data and research to affect communities across the country.

New Research Material

Throughout 2016, Salud America! will release research packages with specific recommendations for Latinos based on RWJF’s Five Big Bets:

  • Ensure that all children enter kindergarten at a healthy weight.
  • Make a healthy school environment the norm and not the exception across the United States.
  • Make physical activity a part of the everyday experience for children and youth.
  • Make healthy foods and beverages the affordable, available, and desired choice in all neighborhoods and communities.
  • Eliminate the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among 0-5 year olds.

Check out the research already available in the Salud America! Hub on Community Commons!

Active Spaces

“Latino kids don’t get enough exercise, so it’s critical to make parks, school playgrounds, and other recreational sites safer and more accessible to help Latino kids be active and fight obesity,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Salud America!’s Active Spaces and Latino Kids research package includes an in-depth review of the latest science on the U.S. physical activity environment and policy recommendations for Latinos. Research shows that 81% of Latino neighborhoods do not have a recreational facility, compared with 38% of white neighborhoods. Fear of crime and poor neighborhood conditions also prohibit Latino kids from being active.

Healthy Weight Entering Kindergarten

Maternal obesity, less exclusive breastfeeding, and workplace and childcare are issues that affect nutrition and physical activity levels, according to a new package of research: Healthy Weight by Kindergarten for Latino KidsObese Latina moms gave birth to kids who were 1.8 times more likely to be obese than their peers.

Healthy School Environment

Research shows that Latino-majority schools tend to have weaker policies on school snacks and drinks than white-majority schools, may be less likely to implement nutritional guidelines, and offer few programs or access to facilities for physical activity. Salud America!’s Healthier Schools and Latino Kids research tackles the latest science on the Latino school environment and offers policy recommendations.

Join the Hub and Become a Leader!

To stay up to date on topics related to Latino childhood obesity and health, consider joining Community Commons and become a member of the Salud America! Hub. Members can even sign up to become a Salud Leader to receive a free jump rope, a customized health report for your area, and be featured on our national map of Leaders. You can also follow Salud America! (@SaludToday) on social media on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Fair Play: Advancing Health Equity Through Shared Use

By Heather Lewis, staff attorney at ChangeLab Solutions.

Hamilton County, Tennessee, is nestled among dramatic ridges, plateaus, and mountains. But, despite the region’s natural attractions, park space can be hard to come by. Until recently, many residents didn’t live within walking distance of a park where they could be physically active.

While standards vary, many experts recommend that a city have ten acres of park and recreation space per thousand residents. For many years, however, areas of East and South Chattanooga had less than three acres of accessible green space per thousand residents. The lack of park space in these areas disproportionately affected people of color, who make up more than two-thirds of the population in those neighborhoods, but only 35 percent of the city’s overall population. Residents of East and South Chattanooga have struggled with some of the worst health outcomes in the city:

  • Fourteen percent of adults in East and South Chattanooga zip codes have diabetes, compared with 10.5 percent of adults in the city overall.
  • Forty-three percent of adults in the same zip codes have high blood pressure, compared with 31 percent of adults in the city overall.
  • An estimated 70 percent of adults in the same zip codes are overweight or obese, compared with 61 percent of adults in the city overall.

photo credit: ChangeLab Solutions

As part of its Step ONE initiative, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department partnered with organizations and residents to address these inequities. To increase opportunities for physical activity, they turned to shared use, a low-cost strategy that makes existing recreational spaces, such as schoolyards, accessible to the community.

Public health advocates helped create two advisory councils, made up of residents from East and South Chattanooga, to lead the effort. With the councils’ input and support, the health department prepared detailed maps of areas without sufficient access to parks and playgrounds, and showed how shared use of public school facilities could increase access to recreational space in those neighborhoods. With the maps and data to back them up, the advisory councils worked with the Hamilton County Department of Education to develop and adopt an open use policy that created access to elementary school playgrounds. Residents of Hamilton County and its municipalities now have access to 210 more acres of playground and green space, and nearly 67,000 residents live within a half-mile of an accessible playground.

ChangeLab Map

Maps like these visually tell the story of a community and its health. Hamilton County used local data to create this map. To find out more about how to do this for you own community click here.

How Shared Use Can Address Health Inequities

Nationwide, low-income communities and communities of color are far less likely to have access to recreational spaces than their white, higher-income counterparts. And perhaps not surprisingly, inequities in access to recreational space often mirror inequities in health outcomes. Shared use has great potential to address this by providing recreational opportunities in the neighborhoods that need them most.

In addition to creating access to places for play and exercise, shared use can advance health equity by helping communities respond to local needs and prioritize “park poor” areas. Because it makes use of existing facilities, shared use is a particularly potent tool in cash-strapped neighborhoods, where a lack of funding prevents the development or maintenance of recreational spaces.

ChangeLab Solutions has identified three ways public health advocates and practitioners can use shared use to advance health equity:

  1. Make Use of Data: Proponents of shared use should keep an up-to-date inventory of areas that have the greatest need for recreational space, and identify spaces and facilities in those neighborhoods that may be appropriate for shared use. In Hamilton County, surveying residents and developing maps to highlight shared use opportunities were key parts of the process. Other successful data collection and inventory efforts may include interviewing school administrators and conducting telephone surveys.
  1. Engage the Community: It’s important that recreational opportunities sufficiently meet and respect local needs. Before implementing shared use, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department worked directly with residents of East and South Chattanooga to evaluate community interest. They surveyed residents living around the schools, and involved the leadership advisory councils in every phase of policy development. By engaging the community, advocates can target locations, facilities, and programming that residents want.
  1. Think Upstream: Shared use should not be considered a substitute for adequate funding to develop or upgrade recreational facilities. Rather, equity-focused shared use should be one part of a larger strategy to increase recreational access and reduce health inequities. Advocates for social and racial justice must continue to look at the root causes of health disparities, including inequities in funding for facilities and infrastructure.

photo credit: ChangeLab Solutions

The lack of safe, affordable places to play and be active contributes to the nation’s health inequities. Communities can, and should, use shared use as a tool for increasing opportunities for physical activity in areas with the fewest resources and facilities. When public health advocates leverage data and engage with residents to develop shared use sites, this strategy can have broad and lasting benefits.

For more information on using shared use as a tool to address health inequities, check out ChangeLab Solutions’ fact sheet, Fair Play: Advancing Health Equity Through Shared Use.



HeatherLewis_AuthorHeather Lewis is a staff attorney at ChangeLab Solutions, where she works primarily in the healthy planning program area. Before joining ChangeLab Solutions, Heather worked at Communities for a Better Environment, a grassroots environmental justice organization, where she provided legal support and litigated on behalf of communities working to reduce pollution and build healthy neighborhoods. While in law school, Heather worked with the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center in Whitesburg, Kentucky, on coal mining environmental justice litigation and clerked with the U.S. EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. She was also a student advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York and the Center for Popular Democracy in Brooklyn, and she interned with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. Heather graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in environmental studies, and she received her law degree from the New York University School of Law, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the NYU Environmental Law Journal.

Data Viz of the Week: One Map, Many Layers

I was making a presentation to my city’s Public Transportation Commission and wanted to show where Vulnerable Populations lived, where people have access to healthy food, and how important it is for public transportation to serve those areas. I created one map with many layers in the Community Commons interactive map environment. When making the presentation, I turned various layers off and on to demonstrate need.

Click on this map to see the various layers I included. You can then zoom the map to your own location and add or remove layers yourself.

columbia poverty

Created by Michelle Windmoeller

Divergent— Convergent: Different Goals but Shared Strategies

by Monte Roulier, co-founder and president of Community Initiatives

Several years ago, a community-based coalition leader from Tacoma, Washington shared, “we’ve tried hard but ultimately failed to engage multiple sectors and diverse partners. Our main goal and measure was framed around obesity…they simply didn’t see their work through this frame.”

No doubt the obesity frame is fraught with problems, but the Tacoma experience points to a larger conundrum. A more narrowly framed shared agenda and corresponding measures holds the potential for focused impact. It also poses the very real possibility of diluted collective commitment.

Tyler Norris, a longtime colleague and friend, is fond of promoting the idea of divergent goals and convergent strategies. A common example is found through communities pursuing convergent strategies aimed at walkable and bikeable communities (e.g. street design and multi-modal transportation systems). Not only do these strategies lead to more walking and biking, they can and are contributing to other (divergent) goals—such as safer neighborhoods, better health, less pollution, and a more desirable place to do business. In fact, communities, including Tacoma, have had much greater success securing the interest and participation of diverse stakeholders when they make room for a broader set of goals.

Conservation organizations and advocates also are increasingly seeing the benefit of a broader, divergent frame for their goals. Audubon has recently teamed up with cattle ranchers in Kansas, a partnership that would have been unimaginable ten years ago. Kansas happens to contain a vast swath of grasslands that serves as critical flyways for migrating birds. This grassland region is also home to several cattle ranches which were starting to threaten the sustainability of the grassland ecosystem.

Audubon was naturally interested in ways to protect this important flyway. Ranchers were interested in maximizing their productivity, the health of their land, as well as boosting their profit margin. Through substantive dialogue, the ranchers and Audubon developed a partnership around a convergent strategy: new land use practices that meet the different goals of both stakeholder groups. To incentivize change in practices, Audubon has been helping to promote the ranchers’ “bird friendly” products in key Kansas City, Chicago and Denver food markets—and at a premium price.

Maps like these are just one example of how data and data visualizations can help organizations identify and thing about divergent stakeholders for their change efforts. Click on the map to see it for your own community or visit our Map Room to make your own maps.

Maps like these are just one example of how data and data visualizations can help organizations identify and think about divergent stakeholders for their change efforts. Click on the map to see it for your own community or visit our Map Room to make your own maps.

Adopting this divergent-convergent approach is only possible when we begin to understand the various languages and values used by different stakeholders, including different measures of success. This almost always requires new processes and more dialogue to arrive at and to pursue shared interests. I’ve recently witnessed a number of meetings where groups have assumed that coming up with one big goal and one or two measures is the best way to achieve impact. This may be true in some cases. I’ve not seen this to be the case for initiatives endeavoring to advance healthier, more equitable and sustainable communities.

The beauty of it is that the more we work together on shared strategies, the more we start to experience each other’s divergent goals as shared goals. Don’t be surprised if you see more cattle ranchers advocating for healthy flyways and conservationists leading the charge for healthy, local food systems!

Did You Know Our Reports Could Do This?

Health Indicator reports are a fantastic way for communities to identify assets and potential disparities in their county or region related to community health and well-being.

Community Commons has four basic types of indicator reports:

  • The Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) report tool was originally built to assist hospitals and organizations satisfy the IRS requirement outlined in the Affordable Care Act but can be used by anyone wanting to learn more about community health.
  • Our Vulnerable Population Footprint tool allows you to locate areas of concern for vulnerable populations and health disparities in your community based on spatial visualization of two key indicators, poverty rate and educational attainment.

Let’s explore the basic CHNA report tool to give you an overview of the possibilities. To begin, simply click on the Maps & Data tab at the top of the Commons navigation bar and choose Build A Report.

Choose build a report

From there choose the state and county—or multiple counties—you want to see. If you are unsure what to do, check out the How to Get Started section on that page. You can also take a look at the many data layers that make up the CHNA report by looking at the indicator data list.

CHNA and side links

Saving and Downloading

Once you have opened a report, take a look at the data available by clicking on the various data categories. If you are happy with this report, simply click Save & Download to begin the process. We suggest giving it a descriptive name so you can easily find it later.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 10.43.21 AM

When it comes to downloading the report you have a few options, such as saving as a PDF or in Microsoft Word. Saving in Word allows you to cut and paste parts of the report into your own documents and presentations.

There is a lot of data in the reports and it can take a long time to download. If you only need one indicator or maybe just a specific category, choose one of those options and the document will be much smaller. We also give you the information you need to cite the Commons as your source.

Download reportCustomizing Reports

Ready to customize your report? There are several ways to do it. Let’s start with creating custom areas. To do this, choose Custom instead of a state and county. A location window will open and you simply enter the area you want to see. From there you can refine further by using the drop down menus on the right side of the mapping area.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 11.01.40 AM

In this example I am going to choose Columbia, Missouri as my custom location and then choose Select School District (secondary) as my defined area. Now that very specific area will be defined on any map or report using this custom area as the geography.

school district

data showing custom area

Limiting Indicators

Reports can be further customized by limiting the indicators. Simply choose the Customize Report button at the top or bottom of the reports page and a window will open allowing you to check or uncheck indicators and other data options. When you are done simply save and download using the same process as shown above.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 11.13.03 AM

Vulnerable Populations Footprint

Looking at your reports from a Vulnerable Populations Footprint (VPF) lens is another way to customize the data you are looking at. This excellent four-minute video explains what the VPF is and how to create maps and reports using the VPF for your area. The process is very similar for the Priority Intervention Area Tool if you are looking at specific areas but not necessarily vulnerable populations.

Topic Reports

Don’t forget to check out the specialized topic reports that have been created for a specific organizations. They are a great way to see how others are prioritizing data and see your community through their lens. We highly recommend you look at the Women’s Foundation report, the Community Action Partnership’s Comprehensive Community Needs Assessment, and the Environments Supporting Healthy Eating (ESHE) Index.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 11.48.18 AM


There you have it: so many great ways you can explore data using reports . Remember that you can always visit our Support page for more tutorials and helpful guides or if you really get stuck, just contact us.