be most accessible to communities for planning and monitoring the health of their children. In addition to making the data available, states should provide the tutorials and explanations that can promote utilization of the data by the public, interested organizations and researchers. While accessibility via the Internet is very important, states will often need to provide technical assistance to communities in understanding and utilizing their data. This is especially true for small, rural communities with very limited resources. Similarly, one of the most important steps that a community can take is to ensure that there is a designated agency or entity responsible for reviewing available data on children and making a report to the community on an annual basis. Knowledge is empowering, and a community empowered with data is more likely to develop necessary interventions to improve their children’s health.
A logical point of accountability for data collection and provision and in some cases leadership is the state maternal and child health agency, which is directed by statute to ensure the health and well-being of all mothers, children, and youth. This includes making data readily available; in recent years this includes reporting consistent data to the federal government as part of the block grant. In collaboration with the federal MCHB, states are also working to improve state data capacity. The state maternal and child health office may be a logical locus for leadership on state data systems; at a minimum, state efforts should attempt to build on this existing capacity.
Many steps have already been taken to develop data systems that can better evaluate and monitor the health of children at the federal, state, and community levels. The technology and some models are available to direct the next steps leading to better data systems and improved children’s health that can result from use of these systems. Vision, leadership, political will, and investments will be needed to meet this challenging but attainable goal.