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Taking the Pulse of our Community

At the start of the pandemic — TWENTY long, long, long,...LONG months ago — talk quickly turned from the very real and scary practical concerns of COVID-19’s impacts on people’s short-term health to how COVID might impact families more generally and longer-term. What would COVID-19 mean for working parents’ financial well-being? For children’s learning loss? For seniors’ mental health? For local food systems?

In September 2020, a group of local partners in the Pittsburgh region — the United Way of SWPA, Allies for Children, and the POISE Foundation — got together with Fourth Economy to start digging deeper into these questions and more, tracking emerging needs and trends in the local five-county region. From those initial conversations, the “Community Pulse Report” was born.

We publish the Pulse Report bimonthly, looking at community impacts from the pandemic and connecting this data to policy implications and recommendations. A year after our first report came out, we are still in the midst of the pandemic, but we’ve learned a lot:

Long-standing inequities have been exacerbated. The pandemic has laid bare massive inequities across the country. But racial, socioeconomic, and gender disparities were present long before the pandemic. COVID-19 has only unearthed inequities that many have been living for a long time. There is an opportunity to use this increased awareness to do so much better than we’ve been doing, and to commit to rebuilding and supporting all communities with renewed urgency.

Issues are intersectional. Many issues brought to the surface during the COVID-19 pandemic interact with each other — economically vulnerable workers, systemic racism, housing insecurity, inequitable access to health care, a broken child care system, women’s labor force participation. It’s nearly impossible to understand one topic fully without also considering the other, interrelated issues.

Communities are resilient. In addition to citing sometimes overwhelmingly sad and disheartening data, we’ve looked for — and found — many bright spots to highlight in our reports: local funding at use to support innovative new programs and initiatives, organizations striving for racial equity in vaccine access, an increase in the use of telehealth appointments for children, and more.

The data can’t tell us everything. Despite our highest hopes for “the power of data,” numbers simply can’t tell the whole story. There is no better way to understand how communities are faring than by listening directly to key stakeholders working on the ground. Data can complement the bigger picture, but it is the stories from within the community itself that brings truth to the numbers.

You can read the latest Community Pulse report here.

Have you seen a similar model at work in your own community? What are we missing in the Community Pulse report that we should cover next month? We want to hear from you!


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