- Four communities will split $5 million in grants from the de Beaumont Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for data-driven initiatives that advance racial justice and health equity, according to an announcement last week.
- The communities are located in the Tucson, Arizona, area; the Portland, Oregon, area; Baltimore; and Pittsburgh, where the city will team up with community organizations to ensure Black communities meaningfully participate in public data ecosystem design.
- Pittsburgh’s Chief Data Officer Chris Belasco said the environmental health-focused initiative will target equity-focused outcomes “at the point where data is first discussed, before sometimes even the point of data collection.”
“To ensure data are a force for good, we need to create data ecosystems — dynamic collections of information that center and uplift the needs of the most marginalized,” Jamila Porter, principal investigator for the Modernized Anti-Racist Data Ecosystems for Health Justice grant opportunity and de Beaumont chief of staff, said in a statement.
The Baltimore project aims to improve youth’s educational attainment and economic mobility, while the project in Portland and Multnomah County, Oregon, seeks to improve local climate and environmental justice planning and policy development. In Tucson and Pima County, Arizona, the grant will support work to help urban American Indians in the area get, keep and advance in high-quality jobs.
In Pittsburgh, the initiative will allow the city to minimize the degree of separation between it and the communities which its data serves, Belasco said.
“[The city is] a place where we take community ideas and we respond to community feedback,” he said. “But when it comes to data, a lot of what we talk about or think about would lean towards the operational or the strategic, but maybe not necessarily what's important for how the community’s impacted by that.”
Belasco said the initiative will help Pittsburgh expand its data ecosystems beyond just information that the city deems operationally important — such as number of work orders done or permits inspected — to include data that is more valuable to community members and will help redress environmental injustices.
Data literacy training workshops will also be made available to residents, to get their feedback and “increase understanding about how power imbalances in data perpetuate structural racism and harm minority communities,” according to a press release.
Belasco added that the city has had a lot of historical segregation. Health outcomes for different neighborhoods vary widely, he said, which is a reason why this initiative aims to give Pittsburgh tools to improve the quality of housing and the built environment.