I apologize for my lengthy absence from blogging. Every three years, my (very small) nonprofit, HARC, conducts a huge community health survey and provides that information back to the community to use at no charge. Our once-every-three-years data release event occurred last week, and it took all of our attention for the past three months.

Note: For those of you interested in Coachella Valley, California health, check out the report we released last week: it’s packed with information and easier than ever to digest! 

Whenever I write this blog, I try to frame it broadly—“this is what we do to impact our community, but it could easily be transplanted to your community”. Today, though, I’m going to get a little local. I can’t help it, it’s a big milestone for HARC.

HARC was originally formed to provide community-level data for our region, known as the Coachella Valley (eastern Riverside County in Southern California). We’re part of a big county (our county alone is bigger than the states of Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut), and completely ringed by mountains, so it feels a bit like being on an island—people don’t leave the Valley for services unless they have to. We have several other things that make us unique—a retirement community with thousands of seasonal “snowbirds” means that the very wealthy live next door to the very poor. Our community wanted sub-county data in order to tell our unique story, and felt that it wasn’t available (it really wasn’t). So 30 local organizations got together to form the brainchild that would become HARC.

To solve the data shortage, it was decided that HARC would do a survey every three years of the health of our region. That survey, it was decided, would be a random-digit-dial telephone survey. The results would be provided back to the community at no charge, so people could use it to make great things happen (see my earlier posts about the magic that comes from needs assessments).

That was 10 years ago. Last week marked the release of our fourth survey’s data (2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016) and I am so proud. I have not been with HARC since the beginning; I’ve been involved in the 2013 and 2016 surveys, but not the older ones. Still, I feel such proud ownership of this magical survey, I could just cry.

Why is it so amazing? Let me share some of the success stories that people have been able to accomplish with our data.

First, a win in the sexual health field:

Coachella Valley by the Numbers: In 2010, HARC found that 50$ of children age 6 to 17 had not had a discussion with their parents/guardians about sexual health and/or pregnancy. This puts them at risk for unplanned pregnancies. Making a Difference: Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest used HARC data to support their grant application to the California Personal Responsibility Program (CA PREP), administered by the California Department of Public health. Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest was awarded $1.7 million to present evidence-based programs to prevent teen pregnancy.

Next, a win in the mental health/behavioral health field:

Coachella Valley by the Numbers: In 2013, HARC found that 34% of children ages 3 to 17 have trouble with emotions, concentration, behavior, and/or getting along with others. 15% have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Making a Difference: Jewish Family Service of the Desert used HARC data to support several successful grant proposals for their "Kids First" counseling program. Now youth are able to have on-site counseling in 16 area schools.

And finally, a win in the social services field:

Coachella Valley by the Numbers: In 2013, HARC found that 49% of local children live in homes with a household income that falls at or below the poverty line. Making a Difference: Shelter from the Storm (SFTS) is the only comprehensive domestic violence services provider in the Coachella Valley for victims/survivors of intimate partner domestic violence. Seeking funding to support our children's services programs and school, we rely on HARC data to sustain the fact that there is a need and that the health and well-being of children and families rely on that monetary support.

I am extremely excited to see what new, wonderful things people do with our brand-new 2016 community health data!

Next week: back to our regularly scheduled posts that apply to anyone and everyone who wants to use data for good (not just those in the Coachella Valley).

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