Telling the Story Behind Infant Mortality Data in Summit County, Ohio

Many LiveStories users are experts in public health. "LiveStories Q&A" is a series that puts the spotlight on their efforts to help their communities. 

Cory Kendrick is Director of Population Health at Summit County Public Health. Jeffrey Krauss is an Informatics Coordinator at Summit County. Cory and Jeff spoke to LiveStories about their organization’s work and how they’ve used our platform.

LiveStories: Could you describe what you do in the role of informatics coordinator?

Jeff: The informatics coordinator position as a whole is pretty new for us as an agency. We do a variety of things, mostly surrounding organizing, streamlining, and configuring data systems, so that we have clean, consistent data that can be used for research, assessment, or to present anarrative format or epidemiological data to the public or our community partners.

Cory: Jeff’s current project is to lead our organization’s marketing and branding efforts using data informatics—telling a story with data that is relatable and easily understood for the general consumer and our partners.

Did the position come about as a response to a need in the community?

Cory: We just have so many different data systems and we weren't doing a very good job standardizing the data and making sure it’s maintained in a consistent, clean format. The role of the informatics coordinator is to keep an eye on data structure, and make sure we have good quality standardized data across the organization. But then, out of that came the question—well, we have all this great data, so how do we present that in a better way? We do ‘public health speak,’ but we really don't do a good job of translating data in a way everyone can relate to and understand.

What was your process in deciding which charts to use in the tool?

Jeff: Trial and error. It was really easy to load the data in and switch back and forth between chart types and different visualizations. So really just whatever made sense for that particular piece of data.

The initial infant mortality story has a link to four different organizations at the bottom. What is the purpose of having these other links?

Cory: There are a lot of organizations in Summit County that are contributing to reducing infant mortality. The links at the bottom of the LiveStory are just some of those. We plan to make each organization a page.

Are they the ones creating their LiveStories?

Cory: No, we are creating it for them. We actually reached out to organizations in the community working on infant mortality related initiatives and sent a survey asking who else wanted a LiveStory page to tell their story. Right now we have 15 lined up that will be developed in the near future.

What inspired you to write the story? Do you feel as though infant mortality is the number one health concern in your county?

Cory: Yes, experts say that infant mortality is perhaps the biggest indicator of how healthy your community is in general. Infant mortality it is extremely important for us and it is one of our biggest issues here in Summit County. You can see from the data in our LiveStory that we have a huge disparity between white and black infant mortality rates and we know the zip codes and the areas hardest hit.

How do you hope writing this story will work towards addressing this issue of infant mortality?

Cory: Well for one it gets the message out there that it is an issue. This story does a great job of defining the problem for anyone looking for information. Then, springboarding on that is the page that links to all of the infant mortality initiatives going on in the county, so you can see all of the individual efforts to address the issue. It also helps when identifying gaps and seeing what aren't we doing.

What are some of the contributors to infant mortality that more directly affect people of color in your county?

Cory: When you look at the data you see that prematurity makes up the largest percentage of infant mortality deaths. A variety of socioeconomic factors, race, lifestyle behaviors, and medical conditions contribute to prematurity risk. So we are really trying to focus on prematurity risk factors to combat the issue. Sleep-related deaths are another easily preventable problem we continue to work on. Our community has done a really good job distributing safe sleep-related products such as cribs and pack and plays into the community and providing safe sleep education, but we can still do better and are constantly trying to improve.

What are some of the initial factors behind prematurity?

Cory: Low socioeconomic status, age, birth spacing (the rest period for women between pregnancies), high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, drug use, and mental health issues are some of the common risk factors we see. Race itself is a huge factor. If you look at the statistics, the simple fact of the matter is—the darker your skin, the worse outcome you're going to have. A growing body of research is beginning to show that socioeconomic factors and health behavior alone do not explain the racial disparity and that structural racism and implicit bias contribute to infant mortality and other health-related disparities.

The Pathway HUB's model addresses a lot of those issues. What that program does is look across all of the social determinant factors, health behaviors, and medical risk factors for pregnant mothers and assigns a community health worker (CHW), who then tries to make sure the mom has the resources and support she needs. It's not just medical care. It's housing, food, education, income assistance, transportation, mental health, and more. It could be a variety of different things beyond just making sure she has her prenatal appointments.

How was 100 Million Healthier Lives involved in this process?

Cory: It was a two year process with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and 100MHL. They gave us a lot of great improvement tools, and we've gained a lot of great resources and techniques. For instance, on the Pathways Hub page, we have a video of our community health workers. One of the concepts that IHI and 100MHL thought was very important was sharing stories about lived experiences. That video is a prime example of our community health workers talking about their shared lived experience and how they help their clients, giving folks a perspective that they may not get from the data alone.

On top of technical support from 100MHL, we’ve also networked with communities across the country and learned from them and their great work. That's probably been the most valuable experience—having met people from Alaska all the way to the east coast and learning about what they are doing in their communities and getting their perspectives. LiveStories made it easy for other communities to organize their thoughts and convey their story, so I think that was pretty helpful.

How would you describe your experience with using LiveStories?

Cory: Jeff made it look easy. But I did play around with it myself and it seemed very intuitive and easy to use. I like that it has the API's that you can integrate with other products, so that we can create a way for people to update their data in an easy-to-use format.

Jeff: I think it's great. Like Cory said, it is intuitive. It's super simple to just pick it up and go if you use one of the templates, but you can also make it really customized to your particular program. I like that you can just upload data and then flip through the different charts and ways of showing the data. It’s pretty easy and simple to use but seems like a powerful tool as well.


Request a demo today—learn how to tell the story of public health in your community with LiveStories.