After three days in Denver for an exciting NACCHO360 conference, the expression that best sums the discussion is public health must be “person-centered and data supported.” This phrase reflects not only the current state of public health but also where the industry is heading in 2023 and beyond.

Talking to leaders from across the country, this is what we heard and why it matters:

  • Prioritizing people: Let’s start with who is doing the work: people. Data and technology have a very clear role in public health—to help the staff get better results. But tools don’t do the work, they make the work more efficient. Jonathan Ong and Lauren Cook from Mecklenburg County Public Health gave a great presentation on developing their data governance program. Their number one asset? People. And people with tools but no training is a dead end. The county focused on providing staff with the training and education to both capture data and to use it to better target populations in need and evaluate programs.


  • Collecting data deliberately: How about data collection? Again, it should be person-centered, and data supported. Data is there to support the community, not tell the community what their reality is. Community conversations, key informant interviews and the open-text fields in surveys help us put the lived experience of citizens ahead of endless data tables. Tommy George, Blake Hendrickson and Jesse Davy from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department discussed how they used surveys and conversations to address geospatial and equity concerns during their recent CHA. At Metopio, we are excited about where technology can support qualitative data analysis. Large language models and natural language processing have incredible potential to shift how we collect data, moving from prescriptive box checking to truly understanding the human narrative.


  • Helping with health equity: Having a person-centered, data supported approach gets to the heart of health equity. Policymakers and funders, who are often the same people, need data and tools inform budget decisions, shape programming in the community and understand the impact of their investments.   Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, from Cook County Department of Public Health and Monica Harnish of Allen County Public Health, spoke about using their unique Health Atlas to share data, create meaningful collaborations with community partners and provide hyperlocal snapshots to drive health equity.  In doing so, they have been able to sustain and grow their efforts.


To learn more about how Metopio’s curated data and tools can fuel your public health efforts, please visit our website or schedule time to review a sample data snapshot for your community.