Research!America Discussion with Dr. Mary Pittman: Better Data for More Equitable Research

On April 12, 2023, Research!America, a Patient Worthy partner organization, hosted a webinar program titled Better Data for More Equitable Public Health Research. This talk featured Dr. Mary Pittman, President and CEO of the Public Health Institute, who talked about the need for truly comprehensive and equitable data and methods in the field of public health research.

Dr. Pittman touched on a number of relevant factors in this area, such as innovative approaches and tools for more precise data; the vital context of community informed measures such as social determinants of health; and how these improvements can make public health research findings more actionable and substantive.

One of the tools that she described in detail was the Public Health Institutes’ Health Places Index, which compiles data and resources in order to identify equity and health hotspots. A number of factors are accounted for in the Health Places Index, such as:

  • Census data
  • Cost of housing
  • Food scarcity
  • Pollution

She also emphasized the importance of greater standardization and precision for effective public health data. This includes making sure that figures can be effectively compared to one another, are de-siloed, and consistent measurements, collection methods, and definitions. Dr. Pittman also touched on the data modernization efforts of the CDC and the value of context in public health research.

This context often means receiving input from communities that are the subject of research. Centering the voices of communities can often highlight factors missed by quantitative research, as well as what needs are considered most urgent.

Dr. Pittman says that researchers that are hoping to incorporate the voices of marginalized communities need to consider these communities as playing a critical advisory role that can steer the research. This means listening to input and incorporating feedback as it is received. This communication should continue throughout the course of the study. 

These same professionals need to leverage social determinants of health in combination with a pledge to focus on equity.

To see a full recording of Dr. Pittman’s talk, click here

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