The Lifesaving Power of Data

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Click to learn more about author Mackenzie Thompson .

Data is a lifesaving resource. At its most basic level, it allows us to see when and where we can empower people with everything from life support training, medical supplies, education, and other applicable tools. Data of this kind does not require costly technology, nor does it involve the use of complex systems. This fact is good news for so many health care providers, because it means you can get the data you need for free. For example, by looking at how many views a video has on YouTube, and by receiving the Analytics detailing what city or country the majority of viewers are from, an organization can determine how to best target a specific audience online. It can use this data to further customize its content, while monitoring what else it can do, either it be on- or offline, to help the greatest number of people.

This opportunity is particularly important to nonprofit groups in general, as well as institutions whose success depends on donations from philanthropists and volunteerism from doctors, teachers, and nurses. Among the latter, where there is often no budget for even a part-time Data Scientist, workers need to learn how to find, analyze, and apply data to save lives. Let me also take this opportunity to emphasize that we need not fear data. Rather, we need not fear that we will be unable to understand or interpret it.

You do not have to be a mathematician or a systems analyst to know how far a community is from the nearest hospital. That data is available, for free, on Google Maps. You can quickly see what areas, at home and abroad, are too remote to receive lifesaving care like CPR, to cite one of several notable examples. You can crunch the numbers in your head, or on a calculator (on your phone), and conclude that no ambulance, not even one speeding at 100 miles per hour, will reach a village in time, when it comes to delivering life support or performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

That factor alone can you help you refine the list of areas that most need life support training. Collecting and sorting that data takes hours, at most, not months of review, discussions, planning, coordination, and correspondence. The challenge, then, is one of awareness versus acceptance of the status quo. That is, health care organizations must not accept, or resign themselves into accepting, something that is not true. They can get the data they need, if they know that so much of it is available online.

There are free reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that have a lot of valuable data. There are articles and university-issued studies with additional data, which providers can use to verify communities that deserve immediate attention. The investment to get this content involves time, not money. It involves one or two assistants, or an intern, who can gather this material.

From there, health care organizations can decide how to best direct their efforts. They can read the data, and compare it against previous actions or plans for future projects. That they have this data is the first step toward advancing a cause that benefits communities of all backgrounds. Put another way, the most valuable results, empowering people to save lives, sometimes starts by maximizing the power of free data.

Seize that data wherever you find it, so you can apply it wherever you can help the greatest number of people in the fastest way possible. Seize the lifesaving data at your disposal, because you will be very thankful of what you can do with it.


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