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Belmont University Data Collaborative Launches Online Data Platform to Further Support Collaboration around Community Issues

BDC, Community Partners Jump into First Collaborative Project with Release of Nashville Hypertension Report

Belmont University’s new Data Platform (BDP), housed at belmontdata.org, is a solution to the city’s need for a shared inventory of community data that can inform data-driven solutions to issues in Nashville. 

The new platform takes community-level data and aggregates it into one centralized location, open and available to the public and other stakeholders. This collaborative platform offers a collective impact framework for the community to have intentional opportunities to work together and share information for the purpose of solving complex problems, such as the disparate negative health outcomes across zip codes that disproportionately affect people of color. 

“Leaders across Nashville recognize that without a common data platform, there is a risk of wasting resources and duplicating efforts in the quest to address community challenges, having little impact,” said Belmont Data Collaborative Executive Director Dr. Charlie Apigian. “We want to change the narrative on how we use data to empower individuals, organizations and communities to bring people together to spark action.” 

One project using the BDP is already underway. The Healthy Community Insights (HCI) working group recently released its Nashville Hypertension Report which offers an initial snapshot into the issue of hypertension in Nashville. The Report uses BDC’s Data Warehouse of publicly available, state-wide health data and looks at its prevalence and unequal distribution across the city. The report is available on the Data Platform at belmontdata.org

Led by the Belmont Data Collaborative (BDC) and non-profit partner Thriving Cities Group, HCI is a resulting organization of the BDC’s Data Warehouse initiative that looks to harness data to build healthy communities. 

According to the report, the city of Nashville spends more than $126 million each year on health care costs associated with hypertension, yet, nearly one-third of Nashvillians suffer from hypertension and many insist the root cause is due to disparities within Nashville community neighborhoods. 

The prevalence rates of hypertension vary widely between zip codes in Nashville, with some neighborhoods seeing numbers as high as 47.3 percent, higher than the national average. Findings also indicate that when compared to white people, Black people report the highest hypertension rates, have twice as many hypertension-related hospitalizations, experience higher rates of hypertension-related mortality and have higher rates of pre-pregnancy hypertension or pregnancy-induced preeclampsia. Additionally, the lowest reported rates are seen in the Hispanic population, likely due to undiagnosed cases of hypertension.

With more than 70 percent of Nashville having limited access to healthy foods, the data demonstrates the choice-constrained-by-availability paradox. The issues do not boil down to education alone. (i.e. People may recognize an apple is a healthier choice than a cookie, but without access to the apple, they are forced to choose the cookie.) Some Nashville zip codes are “food swamps” with no full-service grocery stores or farmers’ markets, such as zip code 37228 which does have 62 fast food establishments instead. Hypertension prevalence is 24.1 percent higher than the Nashville average in this area. 

Director of the Belmont Data Collaborative Dr. Catherine Bass said unique drivers necessitate unique solutions, rather than a universal solution for the entire city. 

“The peanut butter approach, or spreading resources evenly across the city, is not sufficient. We need to create and locate resources in the areas that need attention,” she explained. “Data is the key to understanding where the differences are and what resources are needed. When we can see where vulnerabilities exist on a more granular level, then we can allocate resources and interventions accordingly.”

HCI sees this report not as a final deliverable, but instead as the initial conversation about collaborating to find unique solutions to this issue. Accurate, shared data is a big factor in making collaborative efforts happen among multiple agencies that lead to meaningful impact.

Apigian continued, “Data alone cannot solve complex problems, but it can be the catalyst for change and meaningful solutions, and with a group like Healthy Community Insights, data can be used for good.”

The BDP combines the Data Warehouse with Thriving Cities Group’s user-friendly mapping tool, RoundTable, and will eventually include a collaboration tool called ReLight that will allow public users to participate in data competitions and challenges and to share insights on future data reports. The group invites the community to use and share data through the BDP to better address hypertension and other critical issues across the city.

Learn more at belmontdata.org.

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