BOX 6-10

Providing Local Data to Local Decision Makers

Data regarding local constituents often have important impacts on local decision makers; however, local-level measures are frequently not available in many areas of the nation.

Indian Health Service. Because of the Indian Health Service’s (IHS’s) central role in providing or contracting for health care services for American Indian and Alaska Native populations, it is in a unique situation to serve as a centralized source of data on obesity rates in tribal communities, despite the vast geographic distances between tribal groups. The Resource and Patient Management System is the IHS patient computerized database and contains clinical and demographic information from outpatient and inpatient encounters from more than 300 IHS and tribal health facilities. The result is a measurement and evaluation tool at the local, regional, and national levels that is stronger than the tools generally available for other high-risk groups (IHS, 2004).

California State Assembly Districts. The California Center for Public Health Advocacy compared 2001 and 2004 data on youth fitness and weight status from the California Department of Education’s Physical Fitness Test and aggregated the results by state assembly district. The resulting local-level fact sheets organized by county and by assembly district have been instrumental in engaging legislators in obesity prevention issues and in the passage of several assembly bills regarding schools foods and beverages (California Center for Public Health Advocacy, 2005).

cludes data from clinic encounters and, frequently, measurements from school health screenings (Box 6-10).

Compilations or surveys of municipal policies regarding healthy communities are only beginning to be explored. Librett and colleagues (2003) conducted a survey of local ordinances in Utah relevant to physical activity levels. Trust for America’s Health tracks smart growth initiatives at the state level, with some information available on specific municipalities (TFAH, 2005). An increased emphasis is needed on tracking policy change at the local level that impact access to foods and beverages that contribute to a healthful diet and opportunities for physical activity (Schmid et al., 2006). The committee encourages greater attention and resources to be devoted to local surveillance, monitoring, and data collection efforts. Innovative approaches to collecting and extrapolating data to the local level are also needed.

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