Two Great Lakes States Launch Data Dashboards to Report Violent Deaths & Develop Prevention Strategies


Every hour in the United States, more than seven people die violent deaths--upwards of 50,000 each year. Despite this staggering loss, most communities nationwide have lacked access to essential, coordinated data about the circumstances that could assist in developing strategies to prevent this loss of life.

To respond to this gap in understanding, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recently launched MiDVRS and MNDVRS – new, state-based dashboards designed to comprehensively visualize key data points. These dashboards include trends in death counts and death rates over time and allow users to easily filter by several variables including: year, manner of death, victim demographics, and weapon used, among several others, to understand specific aspects of violent death in each state.

These innovative dashboards are presenting data collected by the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), the most comprehensive source of data on violent deaths, with each state collecting hundreds of unique data points on each death. NVDRS was developed with the support of The Joyce Foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform Program. NVDRS was piloted at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and is now housed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

NVDRS has been collecting data and providing context on the nature of violent deaths caused by suicide, homicide, child abuse, domestic violence, accidental discharge of firearms and other circumstances for 20 years and was expanded nationwide in 2018. The database has been critical in understanding alarming trends, such as the growing disparity in homicide rates for African Americans in Chicago as well as characteristics of people who commit suicide.

Since VDRS has been in operation, several states have sought to disseminate the data they have collected through reports, targeted analysis, and limited dashboards. But these reports are time-intensive to produce, usually only cover single or few topics, and are often inconsistent across states. In surveying the field and assessing how the strategic dissemination of VDRS data could be enhanced, the Joyce Foundation determined that the public could benefit from new data dashboards that comprehensively visualize and disseminate VDRS data by state and allow users to interact with that data. The Joyce Foundation then partnered with Understory Consulting and these two states to design and develop these dashboards.

In Michigan and Minnesota, officials are hoping the coordinated data dashboards will ultimately help save lives.

“This dashboard gives us more detailed information on which populations are experiencing the tragedy of violent deaths, and what the circumstances are surrounding these deaths,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham. “By pulling this data together into one dashboard, we can better understand where and why these deaths are happening and work with our partners to develop tailored strategies to protect Minnesotans.”

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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