Communities are increasingly seeking new ways to improve health, equity, and well-being by sharing data among public health, health care, and social services systems. In addition to leading data-sharing efforts at a local level, community partners can connect with state policymakers that have various tools and “levers” at their disposal to support these efforts to improve health, especially within communities most at risk of inequities.

To strengthen alignment and data sharing among the public health, health care, and social services sectors, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is supporting the Learning and Action in Policy and Partnerships (LAPP) national initiative, which is led by Data Across Sectors for Health in partnership with the Center for Health Care Strategies. LAPP is helping six communities leverage data-sharing partnerships with states to advance health, equity, and well-being. The initiative is seeking to enhance community data-sharing capabilities and foster relationships between state governments, community-based organizations, and community members. Participating communities and their projects are:

  • Arizona (led by the Arizona Housing Coalition): Building a statewide data-sharing model between state agencies and the homeless systems of care to support people experiencing homelessness.
  • Connecticut (led by the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut): Co-developing a data framework and report for community collaboratives to improve population health.
  • Rhode Island (led by the Center for Health and Justice Transformation at The Miriam Hospital): Integrating criminal justice, health, and other public sector data to inform justice involvement as a social determinant of health and explore robust criminal justice outcomes.
  • South Carolina ­(led by the University of South Carolina): Leveraging existing data to inform rural community health and educational initiatives.
  • Washington, D.C. (led by the D.C. Primary Care Association): Establishing sustainable, interoperable resource directory infrastructure to efficiently share information about health, human, and social services that are available to D.C. residents.
  • Washington (led by the Economic Services Administration at Department of Social and Health Services): Collaborating with state and community partners on a shared vision for an equitable economic recovery and a just and equitable future.

The levers these communities may explore under LAPP include:

  • Data access: Community-level data can drive integration and inform state policy, and states may have data that is needed by communities. 
  • Policy and legal clarity: States can clarify and amend as warranted the regulations that govern how and what data can be shared.
  • Shared services and systems: States may develop or purchase systems that can be made available to communities (e.g., health information exchanges, social services referral platforms). 
  • Interoperability rules: Communities and states may play a role in developing standards or guidance to ensure data can be linked across sectors. 
  • Financing: States can change how services are paid for and what metrics need to be captured to align incentives and accountability; and support communities’ sustainable infrastructure development. 
  • Managed care organization contracting: States can integrate language into managed care organization contracts that encourage collaboration with communities (e.g., social services referrals).

Sharing data across sectors and building relationships among community and state partners can inform decision-making to improve community health and wellbeing, strengthen systems of care, and break down silos that perpetuate disparities and poor health. The impact of events in 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic, social uprisings, and the demand for racial justice, provide critical context for a community collaborative approach to improve their use of data and relationships with state government in efforts to improve health, equity, and well-being.