Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Community Monitoring Systems Report

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has issued a report on Community Monitoring Systems: Tracking and Improving the Well-Being of America's Children and Adolescents.

Here's a selection from the Executive Summary which might pique your interest:

Monitoring the well-being of children and adolescents is a critical component of efforts to prevent psychological, behavioral, and health problems and to promote their successful development. Research during the past 40 years has helped identify aspects of child and adolescent functioning that are important to monitor. These aspects, which encompass family, peer, school, and neighborhood influences, have been shown to be associated with both positive and negative outcomes for youth. As systems for monitoring well-being become more available, communities will become better able to support prevention efforts and select prevention practices that meet community-specific needs.

There is evidence that supports the importance of certain factors for young people to function successfully including academic success and participation in volunteer activities. Research also has identified biological, psychological, and social factors that are associated with negative outcomes in youth; these include substance use, antisocial behavior, risky sexual practices, and academic failure. From a public health perspective, the problems most important to monitor can be chosen based on their prevalence and consequences to youth, their families, and communities.

Communities can choose which factors to monitor based on the prevalence and consequences of these factors in their community. This monograph describes Federal, State, and local monitoring systems that provide estimates of problem prevalence; risk and protective factors; and profiles regarding mobility, economic status, and public safety indicators. Data for these systems come from surveys of adolescents and archival records.

By focusing attention on measurable outcomes, Community Monitoring Systems (CMSs) can help bring about critical improvements in the lives of children and adolescents and affect positive changes at the community level. To the extent that these systems can be made available to communities, they will foster support for prevention efforts and guide selection of increasingly effective prevention and treatment practices.

As communities become skilled at implementing and operating CMSs, they can use data to guide them in choosing programs, policies, and practices (PPPs) that address malleable risk and protective factors in order to prevent young people from engaging in risk behaviors, which in turn can help bolster the well-being of the entire community.


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