We are working to gather raw data for your own analysis and to pinpoint trustworthy outside sources of data, analysis and summaries that you can use in your reporting. Below are data sources that can assist you in covering the social determinants of health.
County Health Rankings: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates and present it here in an interactive map that lets uses search by state or county for a wide range of health factors from smoking and obesity to violent crime and pollution.
Infogr.amis a user-friendly, Web-based application for making interactive infographics and charts. It includes a spreadsheet for entering and editing data, or you can import XLS, XLSX and CSV files. You can embed infographics in blog posts or news articles, or save them to your computer.
Visualizing Healthprovides templates to more effectively display health information with graphs, charts, and images. You are free to duplicate, adapt, and modify images (Creative Commons licensing terms require credit and appropriate link to Vizhealth.org). Visualizing Health is a project of the University of Michigan Center for Health Communications Research and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The goal of Community Commons Maps & Data “to make public data accessible for all, with easy-to-understand visualizations such as maps, reports, charts, dashboards and animations.” Registered users can explore and learn from thousands of geographic information systems (GIS) data layers and tables covering communities across the U.S. It’s run by Advancing the Movement and the Institute for People, Place and Possibilities. Supporters include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kaiser Permanente, Ascension Health, and the YMCA of the USA.
Databases, research and statistics
CDC's Behavioral Risk Data: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been collecting data on health behavior since 1983. Considered “gold standard of behavioral surveillance,” its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) tracks nearly 20 areas, including alcohol and tobacco use, colorectal cancer screening, immunization, prostate cancer and women’s health issues. It also looks at fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity levels and obesity/overweight. Users can also look up demographics, health status and chronic health indicators. It offers data for all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories. The data is collected by monthly land and mobile telephone surveys, although the CDC has several projects underway looking at other methods.
Gallup: Well-Being: Polling and analytics company Gallup Inc. offers a glimpse into both U.S. and global wellbeing through its surveys. Its polls intersect health, social issues and business to give journalists data on everything from millennials seeking jobs that boost their wellbeing and on-the-job-satisfaction to standard-of-living, smoking, eating and stress. Gallup’s surveys also look as specific demographics; in additional to millennials, recent polls have also looked at women and the uninsured. It also makes its polling experts available for interviews to discuss the data. (Media contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Health Inequality Project: This comprehensive study examines 15 years of data on U.S. life expectancy. Published in 2016 in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the findings analyze the nation’s mortality rates by gender, age and year as well as by household income percentile. Researchers at Stanford, MIT and Harvard also pulled city- and county-level data, ranking it by overall life expectancy and by level of change. The site also allows reporters to download their figures and use them with attribution. The 12-member team’s research is funded by Stanford, the Social Security Administration National Institutes of Health, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others. Media contact: email@example.com.
National Healthcare Quality & Disparities Reports: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) takes an annual look at quality and disparity issues across the United States. Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AHRQ reports each year on related trends in patient care, including “access to care based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and residential location.” The reports also offer a wide range of charts related to its findings.
Childhood Lead Poisoning Data, Statistics, and Surveillance: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been collecting information on lead levels in children since April 1995 and offers two related databases, one for state level data and another for counties. Annual lead exposure data is gathered from blood lead tests from the 35 state and local health departments that the CDC funds to gather lead surveillance and included the highest lead level found. Any other data from states that are not funded is voluntary.
World Bank: Health Equity Data by Wealth: The World Bank offers this database on issues affecting health equality that allows users to search and analyze data on more than 70 health indicators across nearly 250 countries, including the United States and Canada. Searchable topics include “problems in accessing health care” to a variety of family planning and reproductive issues. The available data include vaccinations, infant mortality, smoking, diarrhea and respiratory infections, among other factors. Results are broken down by wealth. Users can search data for recent years or, to make comparisons, go back as far as 1990 to spot trends.
Census annual report on poverty, income and the uninsured (2014): The U.S. Census Bureau releases annual statistics on U.S. poverty – considered the nation’s official poverty rate – as well as median income. The report, which covers the previous calendar year, also includes the number of people in the United States who do not have health insurance. The 2015 data will be released on Sept. 13, 2016.
WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) generates customized reports of injury-related data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The mapping module draws on seven years of data, the amount needed to produce reliable county-level injury-related death rates, according to the CDC, and it is a powerful tool to explore health disparities.
County Health Rankings: New data for 2015. The data sources and years for each measure are listed on page 10 of the Key Findings report. This collaboration between the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a rich source of data about health at the local level and who is doing what to improve it. Information can be segmented by behavior, clinical care, socioeconomics, and physical environments - showing how and where people live, work, and receive care. Track the grantees for story ideas, and dive into data through several links on the site (particularly on this page). Then go even deeper with the data drill-down guide. The site looks at national and local trends regarding mortality and premature death, health related quality of life, as well as factors such as air pollution, smoking rates, obesity and teen births.
RWJF Data Huballows you to compare and visualize state-level data on social determinants of health, health inquality, costs, insurance status and more, maintained by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The Equality Trustis a compendium of data on income inequality in relation to health, welfare & social cohesion in Great Britain. (The trust was founded by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.)
MetroTrends: The Urban Institute provides up-to-date interactive maps, downloadable datasets, and expert commentaries on conditions and trends in U.S. metropolitan regions. The database includes numbers on crime, unemployment, house affordability, earnings and material hardship, immigration and diversity, child well-being, and more. It’s supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation.
Health System Data Center allows you to compare state and local health system performance using a search function or mapping tool. You can create and export custom bar charts and tables. It’s supported by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation with a mission “to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society's most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults.”
Pew Research Centerconducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Reports have examined the racial wealth gap, the rising cost of not going to colllege, and the rise of stay at home mothers. Pew Research does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Incarceration: U.S. and world prisons
Reporting on prisons is typically a beat for criminal justice reporters, but as more research reveals failures in prison health care systems, the mental health effects of solitary confinement and the abuses of some private, for-profit prisons, it is increasingly becoming a beat for health reporters as well. The measles outbreak in Arizona in the summer of 2016, for example, highlighted low immunization rates and inadequate rules and oversight regarding employee vaccinations.
One of the best places to start is the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, which has statistics and costs on total correctional population, prison population, jail population, probation population and parole population. All their annual surveys are archived here as well as various reports on recidivism, capital punishment, sexual assault in prison, deaths in custody and related topics.
A wealth of worldwide comparative information is available at the International Centre for Prison Studies, “an online database comprising information on prisons and the use of imprisonment around the world” that has recently merged with the Institute for Criminal Policy Research. They have a 15-page fact sheet full of big-picture states, and their world prison briefs provide contact information for prison systems in every country in the world as well as statistics on overall prison population and rate; juvenile, female, foreign and pre-trial populations and rates; system institutions and capacity; and trends over time. They also have a section on research and publications worth perusing if you’re seeking general information or aren’t sure what you need yet.
A report from the U.S. Department of Justice offers a detailed breakdown of prison and parole/probation populations in the U.S. from 2000 through 2014, including a per-state breakdown. A National Academies Press publication provides an overview of causes in the increase in incarceration and recommendations for addressing it (complete report here). For more than 100 of graphic representations of federal, state and historical prison populations, check out the Prison Policy Initiative report on tracking state prison growth. The site offers dozens of other reports as well.
Additional resources are available at the Journalist’s Resource here, here (solitary confinement) and here (father incarceration’s impact on children). Looking for ideas to localize? Check out Frontline’s “Locked Up in America” series.
Health Literacy “Tool Shed:” Funded by the National Library of Medicine, this online health literacy resource from Boston University offers a searchable database of dozens of measures to test competency in understanding basic health literacy. Measures also size up individuals comprehension of a wide range of conditions from diabetes to colon cancer. It also included a glossary.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT Data Book includes data on children’s wellbeing and health in all 50 U.S. states. In 2016, researchers pinned Minnesota as the top state in the nation for overall child wellbeing. Massachusetts captured the No. 2 spot, followed by Iowa and New Hampshire. States at the bottom of the annual report’s ranking for 2016 included Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi.
Kidsdata.org: For California-based reporters, this is a powerful database on more than 500 measures of child health and well-being, all of it clearly sourced and mappable by legislative district and often down to the level of county, city, and school district. It’s sponsored by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health.
Child Poverty Demographics Wizard allows you to create custom tables of national- and state-level statistics about low-income or poor children with this online tool produced by the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Maps and mapping tools
County Health Rankings: A project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, these maps helps offer a way to visualize a host of health data across the United States county-by-county. RWJF’s maps use community-based data to track everything from walking scores and chronic disease to income, opportunity and food security.
Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America: View 1930s maps drafted by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation in relation to current maps of inner cities to show the lasting effects of with racist redlining. HOLC maps graded neighborhoods based on environmental problems but also by the presence of low-income families, blacks, and the foreign-born. The Mapping Inequality project was founded by Richard Marciano, professor of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, and Nathan Connolly, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University.
QGISis a user-friendly, open source geographic information system (GIS) you can use to visualize, manage, edit, analyze data, and compose printable maps. It’s licensed under the GNU General Public License. QGIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo).
Justice Mapping Center: Use the center’s Justice Atlas to create geographic displays of data on prison admissions, prison releases, parole, and probation from 22 states. Atlas data show, for example, that Pennsylvania taxpayers will spend more than $40 million to imprison residents of neighborhoods in a single ZIP code in Philadelphia, where 38 percent of households have incomes under $25,000. In Shreveport, La., nearly 7 percent of all working-age men living in the neighborhoods of a single ZIP code were sent to prison in 2008. In Austin, Texas, while neighborhoods in three of the city’s 41 ZIP codes are home to only 3.5 percent of the city’s adult population, they receive more than 17 percent of people returning from prison each year.
Health and wealth: Comparing Milwaukee and other metro areas: This incredibly detailed interactive map allows you to track where old hospitals have closed and new ones have opened in cities across the U.S. since 1991. It’s part of a hard-hitting series produced by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exploring the consequences of hospital closures in America’s inner cities.
U.S. Health Map is an interactive mapping tool that lets you analyze stark differences in life expectancy and prevalence of chronic disease at the county level, developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent research center at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The National LGBT Health Education Center: This federally-supported health center focuses on improving the health of LGBT populations, in large part through community health centers. Its website offers access to numerous publications, including journal articles and other handouts, as well as suggested resources. The center is run by The Fenway Institute and, according to its website, is “one of the world’s largest LGBT-focused health centers.”
The NIH's Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) has published the fourth edition of the Women of Color Health Data Book. This data book includes information and statistics on causes of death, behavior, lifestyles, health insurance, and other data on morbidity and mortality for U.S. women of color. ORWH offers the data book as part of the Women of Color Health Information Collection, which also features downloadable documents (pdf format) on breast cancer, HIV and AIDS, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes mellitus.
The ACA requires federal health data collection and analysis, including demographic data aimed at better understanding disparities. The HHS Office of Minority Health has detailed reports on five racial and ethnic groups.
U.S. State Health Equity Reports: The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) offers a look at some states’ reports highlighting health equity. The reports, produced by state public health departments, include data on local health disparities as well as other tools and resources. Although so far, just eight out of 50 states are listed, it shows some states are and could prove a launching point to press other states for similar data. The state reports offered so far are for: Alabama, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Utah Vermont and Virginia.
Monitoring the Future: This national survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) tracks drug, alcohol, and cigarette use among U.S. students from 1975 to the present. The survey, conducted by the University of Michigan, includes trends among 8th, 10th and 12th grade students’ use of various substances, including steroids painkillers/heroin, prescription medicines and marijuana (including synthetics). It also offers results for full-time college students and similarly-aged young adults who are not in college. Several infographics also highlight various findings.