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Six Key Lessons from the All In: Data for Community Health National Meeting

October 30, 2019

Guest Post by Jana A. Hirsch

Last week I attended the All In National meeting in Baltimore, MD. All In: Data for Community Health is a learning network of communities who are testing new ways to improve community health outcomes through multi-sector partnerships working to share data. Over 150 national partner networks are building evidence base to advance practice, identify gaps, highlight investment needs, and inform policy.

In the spirit of sharing within our own network below are some of the main messages that excited, inspired, or struck me from the meeting.

  1. Garbage in, Garbage out. The opening plenary, by Rhea W. Boyd of Harvard, emphasized an anti-racist imperative for the data-driven world. Data built within a system of structural racism (or sexism and other social stratifications) often produces results that reinforce these systems. Critically assess sources, their origins, and your work structures to ensure data first “does no harm.”
  2. Document and share your technical process. Anyone who has sat through a data structure and governance meeting or a legal meeting about data licensing knows that the nitty-gritty, technical aspects of data sharing are as important as they can be tedious. The All In National meeting showcased amazing examples of platforms for and models of data sharing. These were only possible due to the hard work of partners who document and share all of their steps and process.
  3. People>Technical. While technical aspects are critical for data sharing, the All In National Meeting highlighted the importance of people and relationships. Relationships within and across organizations, between different levels of government, and with the community are key for getting work done and maintaining it over time.
  4. Trust>Data Agreements. Speaking of relationships and trust, data sharing is lost without trust. Data agreements handle the legal aspect of giving and receiving data, but the process has to start with trust: trust between organizations, trust between the patient and the health system, trust between communities and researchers, and trust between all partners.
  5. 1+1=2. An interactive deep dive on the first day by Dylan McDonald of the National Park Service emphasized the power of synergy. The remainder of the All In Meeting highlighted shining examples of the synergy when relationships, trust, and technical aspects align. The changes a system can undertake when multiple sectors work together is greater than the independent change each partner could make on their own.
  6. Prioritization is a challenge and an opportunity. In a model of collaboration, integration, and endless potential solutions, it is hard to prioritize resources. Successful partnerships prioritize based on shared (and articulated) values while leaving flexibility to accommodate new cross-sector challenges that appear.