Why a RI Life Index?
At Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, our vision to passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island was the impetus for the creation of the Index. In order to address social determinants of health such as safe and affordable housing, access to transportation, the availability of nutritious food, and financial stability, we needed a clear assessment of the landscape. As a proud local company and the state’s largest health insurer, we are committed to building a healthier Rhode Island. Information we learn from the Index will inform our work going forward. 

 

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Who created the Index? Who funded the Index?
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and the Brown University School of Public Health partnered to create the RI Life Index. The survey is funded by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

 

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What will the partners do with the information in the Index?
The data collected from the RI Life Index will help boots-on-the-ground organizations in their essential work to improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders. The data collected is intended to complement existing data surrounding social determinants of health that other organizations have collected.

 

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How was the survey designed?
Working in concert with experts at Siena College Research Institute, researchers at the Brown University School of Public Health designed and oversaw the survey. The principal survey methodologist for the RI Life Index is Melissa Clark, Ph.D., Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology; and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Brown University.

 

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How was the survey administered?
In July and August 2020, we randomly selected residents by landline telephone, cell phone, or web with geographic representation across the state of Rhode Island. Interviews lasted approximately 15 minutes and were conducted in English or Spanish. In total, 2126 surveys were completed with an oversample of Black and Latinx Rhode Islanders. Of the surveys, 650 were conducted by landline, 966 by cell phone, and 510 though a web survey tool. The margin of error for the total sample of 2,126 is +/- 2.7%, including the design effects from weighting with a 95% confidence interval.

In the survey, we included three sets of questions to ask respondents about their perceptions of their communities. One set of questions asked respondents to rate statements about their communities in terms of whether the statement was completely descriptive, somewhat descriptive, not very descriptive, or not descriptive at all. A second set of questions asked respondents to rate how likely each aspect of life was for a typical person living in their community—very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely. The third set of questions asked respondents about housing availability and affordability, racial equity, healthcare access, health management, food security, and access to technology. In the survey, we also included questions about programs and services for seniors and the top priorities for their communities. 

 

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How were phone numbers obtained?
The design of the landline sample was conducted so as to ensure the selection of both listed and unlisted telephone numbers, using random digit dialing. Landline telephone numbers were purchased from ADSE Survey Sampler. The cell phone sample was drawn from a sample of dedicated wireless telephone exchanges from within Rhode Island. Cell phone telephone numbers were purchased from Dynata. Respondents were screened for residence in the state of Rhode Island. The online sample was provided by Lucid, a market research platform that runs an online exchange for survey respondents. The samples drawn from this exchange matched a set of demographic quotas on age, gender, and region. 

 

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POP Score – how does that work?
POP, or percent of the possible, scores represent how close respondents believe their community is to an ideal or healthy community in the particular areas we asked about. A POP score of 100 is the highest possible score and is reached when every single respondent rates each of the individual indicators at the highest value. POP scores range from 0 to 100. In the survey, negative outcomes were reversed so that a higher POP score indicates moving toward a healthier community.

 

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Why is the data not available broken out by ZIP code?
Due to the survey size, the data cannot be broken down into ZIP code. There are too few survey respondents in some ZIP codes, which could cause their information to be identifiable.

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Can the data collected as part of the second annual RI Life Index be integrated with complementary data collected by other organizations, like Health Equity Zones, ONE Neighborhood Builders, and United Way of Rhode Island, to name a few?
Because the RI Life Index survey method is designed to be anonymous and all potentially identifying characteristics are separated from the publicly available data, the possibilities for data integration are limited at best. This intentional survey method allows for greater participation and typically richer data, which can be used to reinforce existing data resources. The only identifier within our evaluation is the ZIP Code, which allows us to present results at a geographic level but limits the ability for full integration of these results with other data sources. We plan to facilitate sessions with the Health Equity Zones and to continue working with other community-based organizations to ensure that RI Life Index data drives action to address pressing community needs.

 

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What were some of the highlights of the 2020 RI Life Index?
When it comes to the factors impacting health and well-being, Rhode Islanders cited access to affordable, nutritious food; availability and quality of civic, social, and healthcare services for older adults; access to healthcare; and programs and services available for children as strengths. In contrast, respondents saw the availability of quality affordable housing, job opportunities and job training programs as areas for improvement; and noted that the cost of living was a burden.

 

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Who are the members of the RI Life Index Coalition? 
It’s clear that in order to tackle the many social factors influencing health outcomes, key community partners must join together. That’s why we convened the RI Life Index Coalition, a group of community leaders who are shaping the next steps in the RI Life Index journey, helping to animate and activate the Index, and providing thought leadership on viable solutions to the challenges identified. Coalition members also provide recommendations about best to leverage existing data resources. The following organizations, all of which are all working in the arenas highlighted within the survey, including basic human needs and social services, are participating on the Coalition:

  • Age-Friendly Rhode Island
  • Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island
  • Brown University School of Public Health
  • Economic Progress Institute
  • HousingWorks RI
  • Lifespan Community Health Institute
  • Medical Legal Partnership Boston
  • Rhode Island Community Food Bank
  • Rhode Island Department of Health
  • Rhode Island Kids Count
  • Rhode Island Foundation
  • United Way of Rhode Island

 

 

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How often will the Index be produced?
The survey will be conducted on an annual basis.

 

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How do you decide which topics to cover?
A core group of 18 questions that speak to quality of life and quality of community will be asked each year so that we may measure progress year over year. The remainder of the survey question topics will be determined by the RI Life Index Coalition, based on the need to fill knowledge gaps that can inform the work of the agencies represented on the Coalition.

Every year, the Index will also pay special attention to a particular demographic group in our state. Early in 2020, well before the pandemic hit, the Coalition recommended that we focus in 2020 on the impact of social determinants of health on Black and Latinx Rhode Islanders.