case study

Co-creating a National Data Resource Powerhouse that Elevates the Conditions that Shape Health


The Challenge

How do you scale a statewide health data platform into a nationwide data powerhouse that elevates the factors that shape health? 

Our Approach

Since 2009, we have worked with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to  establish and then support the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R) program. CHR&R provides data, evidence, guidance and stories to broaden the nation’s understanding about the many factors that drive health. From the beginning of the project, Burness has executed and refined a comprehensive national communications strategy that has helped the program become one of the leading health data resources in the country. We have done so through robust media outreach; policymaker education at the local, state and federal levels; broad engagement with national partners and 50 state teams comprised of local health departments and public health institutes across the country; vigorous social media efforts; and importantly, strong collaboration with UWPHI and RWJF to set and bring to reality a vision for what the program can accomplish.

Results and Impact

At the outset, the Rankings sought to expand our understanding of what determines our health,  while helping communities learn more about their challenges and strengths. Today, the potential has been realized in significant ways. 

  • The Rankings are widely used by communities to shape policies for better health. 
  • Through communications engagement with a broad set of audiences, we see leaders from business, education, community development and other sectors quoted in Rankings coverage – more and more they are seeing and expanding their role in health improvement. 
  • The news media sees the Rankings as a valuable tool, with the annual release being covered extensively in national, regional, state and local media – including coverage in outlets as varied as the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, CNN, the Rome News-Tribune and the Wausau Herald. The Rankings has become a trusted resource that reporters turn to throughout the year as well. 
  • The Rankings have enriched and widened the national and local conversation about health with its exploration of topics such as income inequality, residential segregation, maternal mortality, living wage, the gender pay gap and more. 

The resource has helped many communities embrace local data, diagnose their problems and apply resources in ways that enable more residents to flourish. Working as a strategic partner with UWPHI and RWJF for more than a decade, Burness has successfully provided communities large, small and in-between with the data, evidence, stories and tools to expand health and opportunity for more communities through the Rankings. 

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