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Using Data


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Data are one of the most important tools you’ll use in your efforts to prevent youth violence. Having the right data will help you better understand the youth violence in your community, including where it occurs, how often it happens, and who it affects. This information will help you check assumptions about youth violence in your community. Data can also help you rally support, focus your efforts, monitor your activities, and measure your progress.

To begin, look at the data already available to your team. With a diverse team, you can increase your access to different data sources. For example, if your team includes a member from the schools, you may be able to access school discipline and attendance reports.

It’s a good idea to pick data you can easily update. Once you select and begin implementing your youth violence prevention strategies, you will want to gather new measurements to monitor your progress. To learn more, visit the Outcomes section of this site.

“Data has been most helpful in elevating the conversation about violence as a health issue.”

- Rebecca, Program Director (Portland)

You can use the Data Tracking Tool below to:

• See the types of data relevant to your team’s prevention focus, and get insight on collecting that data

• Identify the data that you’ll be gathering and tracking to understand youth violence in your community

• Enter a baseline – a starting measurement for each type of data

Having a baseline measurement is important, because it becomes your starting point. Keep in mind that what you measure is something you will probably want to measure again. Meet with your team and other community leaders to discuss data sources that may be available. It is possible that someone else has access to data you need. If you still cannot find data, you may decide to collect new data. Check out the Helpful Resources in this section for additional help.

The Value of Data

Learn from communities about how using data helped them in their work.

Transcript with Audio Descriptor


Data are really useful in making decisions about where to focus your efforts. Use data to confirm that the youth violence problem you think you have is actually the problem. Collect data from the wider community to see if people agree about the problem. Use the data to confirm where the problems are.

Data also are useful for tracking your efforts after you’ve begun implementing a prevention strategy. For each strategy you select in Our Strategies, you will be able to see what kinds of data you will want to track to understand whether your efforts are leading to the intended outcomes.

Consider gathering data about violence problems, but also community resources and assets. This information can help you better understand what is going on in your community and better track changes that occur. Here are some examples:

• Data on youth violence in the community
(Potential sources: law enforcement, hospitals, neighborhood watch groups)
Where is youth violence and crime happening across your community and at what rate? What types of violence and crime happen most often? How does youth violence vary across neighborhoods within the area?

• Community resources, assets, and infrastructure
(Potential source: local community-based organizations)
What schools, community centers, parks and recreation facilities, job training centers, faith organizations, businesses, transportation systems, and service agencies are in place and where?

For information and tools to help you assess the resources, assets, and infrastructure in your community, visit

While many data sources can provide information on trends in youth violence on a national level, local or community-level data may prove more useful in helping you choose, implement, and track a prevention effort.

Engaging a wide variety of partners from different sectors – including law enforcement, education, government, public health institutions, or hospitals – can increase your access to data and skills to use the data.

An inventory form for taking stock of the different types and sources of data in your community can be found here.

Once your team has discussed the types of data you can access, you may find that you have some gaps. If this is the case, you may want to collect new information. Identify who you will collect information from. Youth? Teachers? Community leaders?

Strategies to collect these data could include:

  • Developing and collecting surveys
  • Conducting interviews
  • Running focus groups
  • Working with your team members and local leaders to encourage others to collect new data (Tip: you may find that adding another group to your team could help with your data efforts, see Our Team)

For more information, visit: 

Local school districts can be good sources of information regarding physical violence or bullying that occur on school property, disciplinary actions taken, and attendance. If the school participates in CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), you may be able to access information about students’ perception of safety and other key behaviors.

For more information, visit:

A local law enforcement agency may have information about youth homicides, youth arrests, or gang activity. The agency may also help identify “hot spots” where more youth violence problems seem to occur.

Hospitals can be good sources of specific information about emergency department visits and hospitalizations related to assaults.

Many organizations have strict policies regarding data security and sharing. You may find it helpful to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for your data sharing needs. To figure out basic information to include in your MOU, think about the following questions:

  • What information would you like to access? (Know the data elements you need before you ask. You can determine these from considering your desired outcomes. Keep in mind that you probably don’t need everything.)
  • Why do you want these data?
  • How much data do you need? (Sometimes it is better to ask for partial data sets.)
  • Do you need data that includes information that could identify people (e.g., if you need future data from them)? Or would data without identifiable information work for your needs?
  • Who or what are the sources of information for these data?
  • Who will have access to these data?
  • How will you share these data?
  • What security measures are in place when storing data?
  • How long will you need access to these data?

Next, Our Strategies will help you use the information you gathered in Our Team and Our Community to find an evidenced-based approach to preventing youth violence in your community. Get ready to move from planning to action!