Using Data Effectively

How can data help you reach children and families more effectively? For starters, data can help you understand community needs and develop plans of action to address them. Data can also help you evaluate existing programs, understand what works, and promote evidence-based decision making. And when you combine data with stories from families in the community, facts and figures come to life in a powerful way.

Here are some tips for using data effectively.

Don’t compare apples and oranges. It may be tempting to use data about early childhood interventions to make the case for home visiting. Although such data can help set the stage for broader conversations, they should not be used as a direct substitute for home visiting research.

Stay current. Try to find data gathered within the last 5 years. Remember that recently published journal articles may still contain older data.

Focus on scope. For agencies trying to strengthen home visiting in their communities, national data may paint too broad a picture. If there are no local data, consider research conducted in communities with similar characteristics.

Consider the source. Gather data from reliable sources such as federal and state government agencies, foundations, and universities. Ask how data were gathered, if that information is not provided.

How are you using home visiting data? Tell us.