A number of site leaders reported that, to work effectively within a community, they need readily available local data on various aspects of the community. The availability of community-based data that have already been collected would allow them to spend more time designing and implementing interventions and less time collecting preliminary information.
During the discussion of local data needs, two major issues emerged. First, local data about the built environment, population characteristics, and other factors would facilitate tailoring work to the community’s needs and benchmarking progress. Yet several participants cited a lack of access to such data; rather, data often are available only at the state or national level.
A second data issue is a lack of access to information on obesity prevention programs and successes within the site leaders’ own or other communities. Several participants were unaware of how to access past evaluations or other data previously collected, or even how they would know that such data had been collected in their own or similar communities. Although they know the data are being collected, they do not know where and how the data can be accessed.
One way to address this issue would be to institute a web-based forum or database that would report details of initiatives, studies, measures used, and evaluation results. Such a web-based resource could document past and current studies and evaluations and be easily searchable by community, town, district, or county. Having this resource would render more useful the large amount of data being collected and save valuable time that could then be devoted to program development and implementation.