Local efforts to monitor and track the health and well-being of children through community report cards demonstrate a vital interest on behalf of communities to understand how children are faring. More importantly, these report cards—also referred to as “score cards,” “profiles,” or “data books”—help communities develop strategic priorities for action that can improve children’s health.
The development of community report cards is often initiated by local health departments, local government agencies, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and foundations. They sometimes involve community residents and stakeholders, require a significant investment of time and resources, and have a range of target audiences, including policy makers, professionals, media, and community groups.
Community report cards not only track health conditions, but also focus on broader indicators of child health and its influences, including social and emotional well-being, safety and crime, education and workforce readiness, and economic well-being. Some report cards disaggregate their data by geographic areas, ethnic groups, or socioeconomic status; track data over time; and offer policy and programmatic recommendations.
An example is the Los Angeles Children’s ScoreCard, developed and published by the Los Angeles County Children’s Planning Council, a public-private partnership organization created by county government. The ScoreCard tracks a set of indicators across five outcomes of child well-being—good health, social and emotional well-being, safety and survival, economic well-being, and education/workforce readiness. The indicators to be collected are determined by key stakeholders, including community representatives; tracked over time; and disaggregated by the eight regions of the county. The report also captures how communities are translating the data into action, by highlighting the work of nine regional children’s councils whose efforts are aligned with the five outcomes and indicators that are of most concern to that region.
Los Angeles County has used the ScoreCard to guide community action on children’s health issues. Concerned that only 75 percent of children had health insurance, in 1997 the county—in partnership with the community—established as a goal enrolling 100,000 more children into MediCal. By the end of that year, 124,000 children had been enrolled. By 1999, the number of children with health insurance increased to 80 percent. The numbers of children immunized also increased by 15 percent between 1997 and 1999.
The ScoreCard is published every 2 years and is the primary source of data on children’s health and well-being in Los Angeles County.