If we read Facebook and news outlets, we see lots of opinions on different topics: vaccine dangers to cancer treatments to medical marijuana to food-borne illnesses. So many people with so many opinions and it’s all out there for consumption. Our collective liberties and freedoms allow these expressions (as well they should), but do we ever stop to consider the importance of scientific data and trends? As business leaders, do we consider our decisions based on facts and demonstrable, repeatable science, or do we allow our personal opinions (and others’ opinions) to inform our strategic focus?
Whether you direct a health care organization, non-profit, private venture or serve as a volunteer–information and data matter. Decisions should be made and defended with recognized, industry standards of information in the form of national surveys, state health trends and data clearinghouses that all provide the same thing: clear community needs through assessment and analysis. We owe it to our patients, citizens, employees, coworkers, neighbors, friends and family to base our future pursuits with valid facts and avoid conjecture, rhetoric or pop culture. Vaccination is a great example. Many people have read anecdotal articles regarding a British study linking autism and the MMR vaccine from 20 years ago. The tragic rise of autism in our country and around the world has left parents searching for answers and finding subjective data and this lone published link. Scientists across the globe have tirelessly searched for confirmation of this link to find…nothing. Over two dozen studies with hundreds of thousands of participants have been examined to search for a statistical and representative link to autism through routine MMR vaccination. None, to date, exist.
My point is not to preach from a soapbox–the goal is much more important. When examining community health needs and trends, science and data must be the foundation of the pursuit of interventions and solutions. Anecdotal opinion and individual experiences, while sometimes important, cannot replace data derived from the rigors of the scientific method. Decisions on oncology services, teen pregnancy, pertussis outbreaks, STD rates and heart disease in women over 40 cannot be informed by social media or pop culture interviews on late night television. They must be assessed, analyzed and researched to provide tried and true interventions with historical successes.
This is how we improve community health. And make a difference along the way.
If you are interested in discussing how a Community Health Needs Assessment and related planning activities can help your organization make a greater impact, please contact Mary Coyne at (806) 670-7440 or Mary@AscentHealthConsulting.com