Qualitative data

Health Equity Qualitative Data Collection

Contributions of qualitative data to health equity assessment:

  • Broaden the range of evidence by introducing new voices into the understanding of community issues.
  • Increase the validity of findings when results are consistent with those from other data sources.
  • Provide context to quantitative data. Placing content in its proper time and space helps tell a more compelling story when used with quantitative data. People’s lived experiences can bring numbers to life.

Who should you talk to?

Community members experiencing the health inequities. Their perspectives can bring quantitative data to life by revealing the lived experiences behind the data. 

Community navigators such as community health workers, public health nurses and social workers. They have deep ties to their communities, and know the residents and the challenges and barriers they face.  They may also be able to help you with data collection by giving suggestions about persons to interview or invite to focus groups, where to observe health equity in action (or inaction), or what public records are available for review.

Groups and organizations working with populations that are experiencing health inequities, e.g., people of color, the elderly, people with disabilities, LGBT individuals. Organizations dedicated to serving these various populations may or may not have health-related expertise, but they often have substantial expertise on the norms, culture, and needs of the populations they serve.

Non-traditional voices such as children and elderly who are sometimes ignored because they are not seen as active participants in daily discourse; those in the background but often in close contact with people experiencing health inequities such as law enforcement, grocery store clerks, park maintenance, or school custodians.; and, community members who do not appear to be experiencing health inequities (White, middle or high income, highly educated) as they may be able to offer insights on how to make available or take advantage of opportunities to be healthy.

Local departments such as public works, transportation, and police that may have access to other data sources (e.g., water quality, street conditions, crime statistics) which may reveal inequities related to social, economic, and physical environments, but who may also have knowledge of the picture that their data do not capture.

Qualitative Data Collection Methods

Document Review - Policies to review

  • Law enforcement policies
  • Policies on government spending
  • Land-use policies (e.g., commercial, residential, parks)
  • Industry standards (e.g., pollutants)
  • Maintenance policies and procedures (e.g., trash, playground equipment)
  • City council or neighborhood association meeting minutes

Key informant interviews and Focus groups – Topics for discussion:

  • Perception of racism and discrimination
  • Perception of a sense of community
  • Feelings of safety living in the community
  • Perception of availability of jobs and jobs that match people’s qualifications
  • Perception of how local businesses contribute to the community
  • Attitude toward policies on public spending
  • Knowledge of environmental hazards in the community (e.g., pollution, illegal dumping)
  • Perception of access to places and resources to maintain health
  • Attitude toward policies related to the environment (e.g., pollutants)
  • Perception of strengths and weaknesses of previous efforts to address health concerns
  • Ideas about new and innovative ways to address health concerns
  • What are 2 or 3 most important things that your community can do to reduce or eliminate the health inequities you described?
  • Who has the power to make the changes that you suggested? What can they do?

Observations or Audits – Do you see these, or how many of these do you see, in the community:

  • Sidewalks or streetlights that encourage social connection
  • Merchants who sell fruits and vegetables
  • Liquor stores, vacant lots or boarded-up houses, graffiti
  • Playgrounds, bike or walking paths
  • Physical activity in public parks
  • Community gardens
  • Public transportation routes
  • Family or social interactions (family members or friends doing things together)


Center for Health Statistics
Minnesota Department of Health
Golden Rule Building, 3rd Floor
85 East Seventh Place
PO Box 64882
St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A. 55164-0882
E-mail: *mdh_healthstats@state.mn.us

Updated Monday, April 25, 2016 at 03:42PM