Danville is one of the least healthy localities in the state, according to a University of Wisconsin program that measures health and equity across the country. Out of 133 Virginia localities, Danville ranks 128.
But Danville just joined the City Health Dashboard, becoming one of only two Southside localities to do so. The dashboard is a program that measures a variety of health metrics for almost 1,000 cities across the country.
Now, data about 32 health metrics in Danville is publicly available online, and a local organization called REACH hopes that this will improve health outcomes in the city.
REACH, or the Regional Engagement to Advance Community Health, will use the dashboard data to stay informed and best allocate its resources, said Cassandra Shelton, the organization’s program manager.
Most of the Virginia localities that participate in this program are in the Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads areas. The only two Southside localities that participate, Danville and Martinsville, both joined the program this year.
Regular access to health data is especially important for Danville, Shelton said, because of its low health outcomes ranking, which measures how healthy people are in a community and how long they live.
“As a city that ranks low in health factors such as economic stability, housing, transportation, education and access to health care, healthy foods and parks, local health data will allow the REACH Partnership to assess disparities to improve poor health outcomes, reduce health inequality and improve quality of life,” Shelton said in an email.
The City Health Dashboard includes both citywide and census tract-level data, which means that REACH can track trends year over year.
The data comes from “federal, state and other datasets with rigorous standards for collection and analysis,” according to an Aug. 16 news release announcing Danville’s involvement in the program.
REACH will pay particular attention to data related to diabetes and heart disease, two conditions that are more common in Danville than elsewhere in the country, said the release.
An estimated 17% of adults in Danville reported having diabetes in 2020, whereas the average rate across all the dashboard’s cities is 9.8%. And some of the census tracts within the city have rates as high as 22.9%, Shelton said.
“Our prevalence of diabetes is concerning,” she said. “REACH is helping to address this issue by providing education, informal counseling and resources to our diabetic clients.”
Shelton said she first learned about the City Health Dashboard earlier this year, through a newsletter from an organization called the Rural Health Information Hub. She decided to apply with the support of the city government, she said.
City Manager Ken Larking said that a healthy lifestyle is important to both the city’s future and its current residents.
“This effort, coupled with what the City of Danville is doing to improve neighborhoods, economic opportunity and educational attainment will help Danville be the strong and resilient city that we all desire,” Larking said in the release.
In addition to Danville and Martinsville, these other Virginia localities participate in the City Health Dashboard program: Alexandria, Charlottesville, Chesapeake, Hampton, Harrisonburg, Hopewell, Leesburg, Lynchburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Petersburg, Portsmouth, Richmond, Roanoke, Suffolk and Virginia Beach.