A couple weeks ago I wrote about our new Community Profiles Dashboards. They’re a huge leap forward for public health professionals, city planners, non-profit organizations, medical providers and anyone interested in health data. The data are arranged on the Dashboards – in state, county, and Primary Care Areas – to provide several options to compare and explore data.
This week we take a look at how the dashboard can help public health gather data it needs to address one of our winnable battles, reducing suicide. More than 1,100 of those were in Arizona last year. To develop effective public health prevention and intervention programs to prevent suicide, we have to understand our communities. Looking at the raw numbers of suicides isn’t enough to develop new strategies. Public health professionals need more information, including where we have higher numbers of suicides and the health and demographic indicators in that area.
In this Community Profiles Dashboards Video Tutorial we look at rural and metropolitan areas of the state to identify where suicide rates are higher than the overall Arizona rate to get a better understanding of the relationships between demographic information and the higher rates. When we looked at the communities with higher suicide rates, we found that all of these communities either had an older population or a higher population of Native Americans, and that all of the communities had lower educations levels. This isn’t a definitive answer to the question of why these areas have higher rates, but it gives us a starting point. The Dashboards aren’t meant to solve public health problems; it’s a tool to help public health better target our resources and intervention strategies.
One of our key interventions has been training people across the state in Mental Health First Aid. Since 2011, more than 7,000 people have learned the warning signs of suicide and what to do when there is a concern. You can find out more about the free classes on our website.