How Integrated Data Can Support COVID-19 Crisis Response and Recovery

What are integrated data?

Integrated data help governments respond more quickly to crises by enabling cross-agency collaboration and streamlining bureaucratic processes. When data are linked they can provide unique insights into how programs impact people across domains and over long periods of time. At AISP, we typically refer to these efforts as integrated data systems (IDS), but they are sometimes known as data collaboratives, or data hubs. IDS are typically built for routine use, establishing secure infrastructure for data access and strong protocols to govern how data are used and protected. While building and scaling an IDS can be time-intensive, the benefits are considerable — especially during crises. By breaking down the silos in which data are held, jurisdictions can foster stronger partnerships between agencies and leverage insights to adjust policies to reflect community need.

How are integrated data being used in response to the COVID-19 crisis?

States and counties with IDS capacity are already working to understand which policies and can mitigate the predicted negative outcomes of COVID-19. The economic and social impacts of the novel coronavirus have revealed not only the underlying weaknesses of the social safety net but also the ability of certain efforts to pivot operations in response to crisis. Consider state-level efforts in Ohio and California that, at the start of state-wide lockdowns, were able to quickly leverage their IDS to support demand for front-line employment and child care for essential workers.

How can integrated data help long-term COVID-19 recovery?

In the long-term, IDS are a powerful tool to help identify opportunities for improving the social safety net, to tell us which policies are beneficial, and to help quantify the ways in which racism — both systemic and overt — continues to harm the BIPOC community . In order to manage public health disasters and their disparate impacts in the future, more communities must develop the ability to ethically link data across systems in ways that encourage an ongoing, evaluative process and incorporate community feedback. Data are not a solution in and of themselves. Rather, sites using cross-sector data should be rooted in a mission that is backed by established governance processes designed to ensure the work is done with public trust and security protections in place.

What does COVID-19 mean for integrated data?

As the pandemic upends common standards in the field, the usability and reliability of data models is changing. Child welfare reports are at perplexing lows — below the typical dip that occurs in summer months — suggesting that traditional measures of abuse and neglect may not be as reliable in the current moment). School attendance and test scores are no longer relevant to understanding the influence of early childhood and education as they once were because in-person instruction has stalled or shut down. Similarly, metrics like well-child health visits or afterschool program participation have dramatically changed due to lockdowns. Yet, SNAP benefits are being leveraged flexibly and extensively in response to the pandemic and offer an important measure for future work.

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Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP)

Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP)

At AISP, we help state and local governments collaborate and responsibly use data to improve lives.