Highlights from our Virginia Data Revolution webinar: “Promoting Equity with Data”

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Promoting Equity with Data

Highlights from our Virginia Data Revolution webinar

 

Virginia has risen as a leader among the states that are implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs directly into its government. We’ve seen the creation of offices that are entirely devoted to equity, like the Commonwealth’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the VA Office of Health Equity.

During our latest webinar in our Virginia Data Revolution Seminar Series, public leaders from these specific departments came together to discuss how data can help government officials not just analyze inequities but develop solutions.

Carlos Rivero, Chief Data Officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia, moderated a panel that included:

  • Alaysia Hackett, Deputy Chief Diversity Officer of the Commonwealth’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Justin Crow, Director of the Division of Social Epidemiology in VA Office of Health Equity
  • Kathryn Crosby, DEI and Health Equity Officer at the VA Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMS)

Here are some highlights from this important discussion:

What are the critical areas that are in need of data-driven decisions?

“A few critical areas would definitely be the housing insecure population – access to housing and fair housing solutions, how education impacts health, and collecting good data on our migrant labor force in Virginia. A collection of these populations frequently access our safety net clinics, so getting great data on use and access, how that impacts health overall, and what are the data-driven solutions to that problem is crucial.” Justin Crow

“When data collection stops it becomes difficult to get a full picture on what’s needed. Under the leadership of Dr. Janice Underwood, we’re encouraging agencies, organizations and community advocates, to collect this data and explain the importance of why it’s needed.” Alaysia Hackett

“Our organization’s culture and behavior have to be data driven. Internally, we need to be equitable in our practices and our policies. Collecting data on this helps us ensure that our organizational culture and citizenship is where we want it to be. Data helps us see the areas where we can do better. It helps us not rely on internal perceptions.” Kathryn Crosby

What is the importance of the One Virginia Plan?

“One and a half years ago, the Commonwealth created the ONE Virginia Plan as a guide for prioritizing increased diversity. Data is central to that goal with regard to diversity, because the impacts of racism and biases are so nebulous that sometimes we avoid really dealing with it because we can’t see them.” -Alaysia Hackett

“This inclusive excellence model emphasizes the need for a variety of matrices to get to the root cause of an organization’s challenges. Once you identify those challenges, you’re able to strategically integrate equity and inclusivity throughout your whole organization. And it’s not just on the surface, but it’s being able to literally collect data from deep down within, because if you don’t acknowledge it, there’s really no way that we’ll be able to provide the answer for those things.” Alaysia Hackett

What are some of the changes that you’ve seen in policy and service delivery as a result of your analytics efforts?

“Virginia created a system that shares data between the human services agencies and nonprofits. This makes it possible for us to functionally end homelessness, particularly in veterans. And so that shared data increased or enhanced service delivery for a very specific population in need of assistance. When data sharing is done well, extracting important information can really transform the way government entities make decisions.” Kathryn Crosby

“In order to target programs to the places and people who are the most in-need, though, you need data. We want to make sure that folks understand where the disparities exist so they can be addressed with policy and changes in service delivery.” Justin Crow

“Marginalized communities are sometimes leery of sharing information because they are not sure if it’s going to negatively affect them. Explaining the potential positive impact it can have is crucial.” Alaysia Hackett

“Data shows how we need to improve, why we need to improve and then once we get into it, how well are we doing? We’re measuring, we’re evaluating, but it’s all data driven.” Kathryn Crosby

What are some of the things that data can do to help reduce systemic inequities?

“In addition to health outcomes and vaccine distribution, the Commonwealth also looks at the distribution of resources like food, education, and broadband access. Using its Equity at a Glance dashboard, for instance, public officials can look at a matrix of everything from unemployment to educational attainment.” Justin Crow

“We need more awareness that biases exist in AI and machine learning. The systemic distortions of data sets and algorithms affects the quality of outcomes in terms of fairness, transparency, and accuracy. But it’s not just a technical problem that requires a technical solution.” Kathryn Crosby

“As we think about how to address systemic inequities, we have to think about how to develop data equity strategies. To do that, we also need to have the awareness and understanding of bias in our datasets.” Carlos Rivero

“You need diversity, not just diversity of people, but the diversity of thoughts and in this conversation, diversity of data collection.” Alaysia Hackett

“We don’t assume that people know that these problems exist, and we don’t assume that they’re necessarily the cause of it. But we do want to make sure that people are aware where disparities are occurring within their realm and area and give them the opportunity and the power really to address those.” Justin Crow

Takeaways

“Data is a thing. DEI involves people and we need to focus on that. We’re looking at data to show how we make changes that affect people. We can’t lose sight of that. The data must be used to develop strategies that positively impact people.” Kathryn Crosby

“There is a difference between health disparities and health inequities. Inequities are what cause disparities. Only by understanding those causes can the government actually intervene.” Justin Crow

“DEI isn’t a checkbox; we must promote these core principles across agencies. This is not the sole responsibility of one diversity officer or one department.” Alaysia Hackett

If you have ideas or suggestions for future Virginia Data Revolution events or would like to be added to the invite list, please email and we’ll be in touch.