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Innovation Nation: Applying Big Data and Analytics to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect

‎03-07-2014 02:19 PM - edited ‎09-30-2015 07:02 AM

By:  Joshua Verville, Senior Strategist, Hewlett Packard Company


About this blog series

Innovation Nation is a blog series highlighting new and innovative solutions in the U.S. Public Sector.  While working in government, I came across new technologies and ideas every day that could be used to better support government and the people it serves.  This blog series is about sharing those new technologies, ideas, and processes to support an “innovation nation.”


Heart.jpgIn August of 1854 there was a cholera outbreak in the Soho neighborhood of London.  Within days, 127 people on or near Broad Street had died and within months over 600 would perish.  During the outbreak Dr. John Snow, an English physician, was skeptical of the prominent theory that foul air was the cause of the cholera and the outbreak.  Instead Dr. Snow collected data about those infected, interviewed families and identified patterns from different types of data collected. While his examination of the water from the Broad Street water pump did not conclusively indicate and prove it was contaminated, he ultimately concluded that the Broad Street water pump was the source of the outbreak by using the data he collected during his interviews.  Dr. Snow took his conclusion and presented it to the local council with the data from the interviews and mapping of each incident. The data told the story and the information he provided was more than enough to have the council take the handle off the Broad Street pump. Almost immediately the outbreak curtailed and ended.


When I think about John Snow’s story I am reminded about the potential value data can have in impacting policy and practice by unlocking insights to help improve the lives of people and communities they live in. What if government could gain insights about how to protect and improve outcomes for children, especially for our nation’s most at-risk children and families involved in the child welfare system?


As a former Child Protective Services caseworker, I believe big data and analytics opens up an enormous opportunity for human services organizations to derive insights from across the child welfare system. Today, states collect an exponentially growing amount of data that’s related to children and families. Information is collected from child abuse and neglect hotlines, investigations, services provided, foster care placements to adoption, including data shared across agencies receiving services from other systems of care. Big data and analytics can help human services organizations leverage their current data and use it more effectively through the “Four V’s”:


  1. Volume: Gather, store, and manage large amounts of data
  2. Variety: Collect and store all relevant data (structured, semi-structured, and unstructured)
  3. Velocity:Analyze and react to it as quickly as it’s created
  4. Vulnerability: Keep it private, secure, and compliant with regulatory requirements at all times


Using the Four V’s, human services organizations can uncover patterns leading to neglect, abuse, and fatalities among children; reduce instances where child abuse and neglect occur by identifying problems early; and understand what services work best to strengthen families and prevent future abuse, neglect, and fatalities.


Just like Dr. John Snow used data to unlock insights to stop the cholera outbreak of 1854, Big Data and Analytics can help you securely collect, store, manage, and analyze child welfare data. Turning that data into actionable insights to inform policy and practice can help protect and improve the lives of children and families. 


Previous Innovation Nation blogs by Joshua Verville:


Related links: 



About the Author


Cropped Bio Picture.jpgJoshua Verville, Senior Strategist, Hewlett Packard Company

Joshua is a Senior Strategist with Hewlett Packard’s US Public Sector State, Local and Education Division and has over a decade of experience in front line and senior leadership positions in state government and non-profit organizations.

About the Author


Joshua is a Senior Strategist with Hewlett Packard Enterprise's US Public Sector State, Local and Education Division and has over a decade of experience in front line and senior leadership positions in state government and non-profit organizations.

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