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Improving Health & Wellbeing:

Using Data to Inspire, Take Action, and Improve

Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) was established in 1886 in response to the small pox epidemic as part of the police department, who would bring affected individuals to the “Pest House”.  Since then the department has grown and is responsible for the public health of both Lincoln, Nebraska and the entire county of Lancaster County, Nebraska.  LLCHD reports to both city and county officials. It was noted that 90 percent of Lancaster County’s population resides in Lincoln.  LLCHD has taken a health-in-all policies approach to improving the health of its community (development applications reviewed by codes, must also be reviewed by health department; food handlers must be permitted).  Data drives the what, where, how, and when, of LLCHD programming, activities, and partnerships.

Lincoln has a strong mayoral system.  City department heads are hired by the mayor and scheduled to meet with the mayor weekly.  The Mayor and his Chief of Staff manage and prioritize budgeting using an outcomes based approach which seeks resident input.  The program is titled: Taking Charge: A community conversation on city priorities & the budget.  LLCHD manages and maintains the Taking Charge dashboard for the city.  Collection of data and reporting is the responsibility of each department.

Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (PHL), is a non-profit organization that partners with other community agencies and organizations, including LLCHD, to improve the health, nutrition, and physical activity of the residents of Lincoln, NE.  Using the collective impact model, community partners meet monthly to share their work related to PHL’s goals, review data, and determine collaborative steps forward.


Lincoln, NE was selected as a NOW Bright Spot because of its success in aligning efforts and messaging across the community to address obesity and fitness.  Additionally,  achieving five goal medals with Let’s Move, Cities, Towns & Counties, using outcomes based budgeting approach to address community priorities, and using data to build awareness, align efforts and evaluate success.


Lincoln, NE has a spirit of collaboration, which is supported by the mayor.  Personal relationships and forums such as Let’s Move! and Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (PHL) provide stakeholders opportunities to hear about each other’s work and connect efforts.

LLCHD is a department of the City of Lincoln, Nebraska and of Lancaster County.  LLCHD often has contracts with community partners for programming.  LLHCD, through relationships and data, is collaborating with partners and connecting dots to further connect public, private and non-profits to improve the community.

The PHL is a non-profit organization and does not have formal agreements with community partners or agencies, except for specific joint grant projects.  PHL provides a monthly forum for partners to connect, share work, ideas and challenges fostering cooperation and improving collaboration.


Community engagement  is a tenant of Lincolns Taking Charge: Outcomes based budgeting process.  Creating a feedback loop for community input. Lincoln, NE has engaged in community policing for the past 20 years.  

Mental health peer services are being used to connect individuals with behavioral health needs with services.  This is a cooperative effort of the  police department, local emergency room, and local mental health organizations, funded in part by CHE.

Health 360 integrated model is providing physical and behavior health wrap around services, along with Head Start in one location.

There are 25 school based Community Learning Centers and many Park’s and Recreations community centers which provide community services and programming, identified by the community.


Data, data, data…  there were many examples of how data is used by LLCHD.  It is used to clarify issues and where action is needed (pedestrian crossing lights were installed to reduce pedestrian injury), it is used to track efforts and progress of programs and health of the community, it is used to bring awareness to needs and highlight areas through more in-depth data look.

The City of Lincoln, including LLCHD, has an open data policy.

Lincoln has been awarded 5 gold medals and is participating at the All-Star level for LLCHD’s Let’s Move! initiative with Let’s Move, Cities, Towns & Counties.  Under LLCHD, Lincoln aligned nutrition and physical activity messages with 5-4-3-2-1– Go! T  PHL with its partners are affecting policy changes and increased messaging. With Lincoln Public School’s PHL is monitoring fitness and BMI trends.  NAP-SACC, a nutrition and physical activity assessment and mentoring program for childcare facilities is also being utilized in Lincoln.

Taking Charge, Lincoln’s outcome based budgeting method, was initiated by Mayor Chris Beutler and his Chief of Staff, Rick Hoppe, as a budgeting method that would add intentionality to budgeting focused on the priorities of the community.  Lincoln has 8 community defined priority outcome areas, with 39 goals and over 150 performance measures.  Annually, the community is part of the budgeting process.


LLCHD uses data to highlight areas and issues of need.  The Medically Underserved Area (MUA) is used when selecting locations of programming and areas of improvement.  

Place Matters Is a mapping project initiated by the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln (CHE).  CHE is collaborating with LLCHD and other community organizations to map health and community data to highlight difference in health based on location.  CHE is using a funding approach it calls “Transformative Philanthropy” which focuses on issues and barriers/challenges experienced, rather that funding specific programs.

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