This month’s “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on the importance of data literacy. The current COVID-19 pandemic has flooded our media with many sources of information. Things are changing daily, and these constant changes can be difficult to navigate and evaluate. Erricka Hager and Bee Schindler, community engagement coordinators with CTSI, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, spoke about this topic.
BS: Good afternoon, Ms. Bush. I’m looking forward to discussing today’s topic with you. I’ve noticed that education holds a special space in your heart. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on how communities can learn how to better understand the data they encounter. The daily news system and the way we access data certainly are changing.
EB: They surely are, Bee. And many of these changes are having a negative influence specifically on Black and Brown communities’ understanding of information. Currently, our readers are getting news, rumors and opinions coming at them from a variety of sources. This content includes data that is informative and true and information that is false. Sifting through this information can be both frustrating and confusing. Our readers need tools to sort through the data storm on this pandemic.
EH: Yes, Ms. Bush. Even as a public health professional, I find the constant stream of data to be somewhat overwhelming. I’m sure our readers are noticing an uptick in misinformation being shared across multiple platforms. I agree that our readers need the necessary tools to help move through all of the data, especially about COVID-19. Elizabeth Monk, research specialist in the Urban and Regional Analysis Program with the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research, shared a few tools that are available for our readers to improve their data literacy skills. What are some other tools that our readers can access?
BS: Aside from the resources shared elsewhere on this page, there is another local resource available to our readers. The Pennsylvania Health Literacy Coalition focuses on empowering communities to understand health information. Health literacy is defined as the ability to find, understand, evaluate, communicate and use health information to make informed decisions about your health. The coalition has materials and resources available for community members to help determine whether or not health information is valid.
EH: That’s a great resource, Bee. For some people, the constant stream of COVID-19 information is easy to understand and navigate. But for others, seeing the increasing numbers may be scary and confusing. I’m also worried about the folks who have limited access to any credible information at all. These folks often look in magazines, newspapers or social media platforms for information. Data literacy skills are necessary for evaluating the risks and benefits of health-related decisions and information.
BS: Simply put, improving data literacy enables communities to seek accurate health information. It will also empower folks to “Take Charge of Their Health,” a skill critical in minoritized communities where the dominant lens might otherwise not provide the tools to disentangle the data.
EB: Thank you so much for your time and thoughts, Bee and Erricka. As usual, we have continued to provide our readers with the necessary resources to help them understand the information they find online. I look forward to hearing your thoughts next month as we discuss caring during COVID-19. I’m sure the “Take Charge” page will be filled with valuable information for many of our community members.