Your Data: Understanding It, Analyzing It, and Putting It into Context

Tips for Reading Your Reports

This tip sheet lists the things you should keep in mind when reviewing your reports.

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Gathering Comparative Data

Resources for comparing your site's health indicators data to to national, state, and local data sets.

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Comparative Data Workbook

This workbook can help organize the data you've collected and show comparisons to local, state, and national measures. Sharing it with others in your community can help start a community discussion.

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Chinatown NORC Program Partners with City on Colon Cancer Screenings

Read about how the Chinatown Neighborhood NORC program worked with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to increase screening rates for colon cancer.

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Understanding the Data
You have finished collecting your data. Now what?
There are a lot of data points at your fingertips. To make the data meaningful and actionable, you will need to
  • Review it
  • Analyze it further
  • Put it into context
Review Your Data Using Reports
Conduct an initiait review of the data to see if the results make sense. We recommend that the Health Indicators Manager review the results first before sharing it with staff and others.

The Frequency Report summarizes your survey results for each question, showing your results in the aggregate (how all respondents answered the question). For example, for the question (Q.21) "During the past 12 months have you had a flu shot?" on the right hand side, the top line shows the total number of respondents who ansered the question and below that, the percentage (%) and the number (N) by response (Yes, No, Don't Know, Refused).

The Respondent Report is a sub-report of the Frequency Report. It lists each respondent's answer to each survey question. Continuing with the flu shot example, the Respondent Report provides a list of the respondents and each of their individual answers. Who responded "Yes"; who responded "No" and so forth.
The For Managers tab contains database instrutions on how to access these reports.
You can also use the Tip Sheet of things to keep in mind when looking at the data.
In addition, consider the following:
  • Do the results make sense to you?
  • To what extent do the results reflect what you see and experience in your community?
  • Does anything surprise you?
  • What issues jump out at you?
  • What else would you like to know?
Analyze Your Data Further to Get a Fuller Picture
The Frequency Report provides informartion about what is prevalent among people surveyed. But you will want to know more about the respondents who answered a certain way. For example, for the rate of flu shots, knowing more about the respondents who answered "No" to the flu shot question (Q.21) will help you identify patterns that are important to know if you want to improve the rate of annual flu shots among the seniors you serve. For example:
  • Is it more males or more females who did not get flu shots?
  • Is it younger or older respondents?
  • Or, are those without flu shots more likely to not have a regular source of health care?
To answer these kinds of questions, the Registry Generator tool combines ("crosstabs") the answers to these questions to create a clearer picture of who the respondents are who have not had a flu shot. The data from multiple questions will automatically be sorted into a profile of respondents that have not had a flu shot so that you can see whether a pattern emerges (more males or females without a shot? younger or older? no regular source of care?), and whether that pattern will influence how you address the problem.
The flu shot question is only one example. There are many more crosstabs that can be done. Use the list of suggested crosstabs to analyze your data further. The Registry Generator tool only takes minutes to use. It is time well spent and you may be surprised by what emerges.


Put the Data into Context


Armed with the Frequency Report results, how will you decide what stands out as a problem? If 62% of your respondents answered YES that they have had a flu shot in the past 12 months, is that a good rate or does it suggest that there is a real problem? It depends.

Comparing your results with publicly available data will help you put your results into context. The Health Indicators survey tool draws questions from standardized national, state, and/or local surveys, so in many cases direct comparisons can be made.

How do the seniors you surveyed compare to the national rate (or your state or local rate) of flu shots? By comparing the results, you will be able to see if the flu shot rate among seniors in your community is higher, about the same, or lower than the national, state, or local rate. This can help you decide if there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Learn about public data available for your area and decide what data source you want to use for comparison. The Gathering Comparative Data Guide describes several trusted sources and sites for comparable public data such as census data, Healthy People 2020, or BRFSS.

Use the Comparative Data Workbook to place comparison data side by side with your survey data to establish context. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. For example, your community may have a 50% colonoscopy rate, which is lowe than the national rate of 60%. The recommended cutoff age for routine colorectal screening is 75 years old so the national rate includes only those adults up to the age of 75. But the majority of seniors you surveyed were older than 75. To make an accurate comparison, you will need to look at how many seniors under the age of 75 have not had a colonoscopy. To see how many of the seniors who answered "No" to having a colonoscopy were also under age 75, use the Registry Generator to crosstab the colonoscopy question (Q. 28) by age (Q.2).


A Word About Healthy People 2020

Under the auspices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United States has been engaged in a public health campaing for more than 30 years to improve the health of the American people. Called Healthy People 2020, the population is surveyed on a regular basis using various standard survey instruments (e.g. BRFSS, NHIS, MCBS, etc...). The results are used to establish national goals, in ten-year increments, on the health indicators to be improved, develop national state, and local action agendas and plans; and implement activites to help "move the needle." The Gathering Comparative Data Guide can help you find the national Healthy People 2020 goals.

How close is your community to meeting the national goal of 90% flu shot rate for seniors by 2020? It may be that your community is already at the national goal. That is something to be proud of and should be shared and celebrated with others. On the other hand, it may be that your community is within a few percentage points. You and your community may decide that this is an important goal to work on and achieve.

Sharing Your Results to Set Priorities


Consider sharing your results with others. Doing so can help you understand:

  • What others think about how the seniors in your community are doing with respect to health risks;
  • Which health risks "bubble to the top," as important and why;
  • Solicit ideas about ways to address the health risk(s);
  • Identify new resources and/or partners.


Engage a wide range of stakeholders—staff members, the seniors you serve, your partners, and your broader community— to get the input you will need to understand, develop an action plan, and gather the resources needed to move forward.

The Comparative Data Workbook is a good handout for discussions with your stakeholders or constituency groups. The Health Indicators Manager can highlight key data points to start a focused discussion. Looking at key data points in side-by-side comparison helps stakeholders talk about what makes sense, what surprises them, what jumps out, and what is important to them.

Carefully consider how you frame the discusion.

  • What will engage your stakeholders?
  • What will resonate best with your audience?
  • What message are you trying to convey?

For example, saying that 6 out of 10 seniors have received a recommended health screening gives a very different message than saying 40% if seniors have not had the screening; but both reflect the same data.


Listen carefully to what bubbles up during the discussion and the issues that stand out by the stakeholder group. Ideally, at the end of teh discussion(s), two or three areas of focus will have emerged for further exploration, as well as ideas for moving forward in converting the information into action.



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