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How census data informs Carlton County health initiatives

Officials will use figures from the 2020 census to evaluate their current health programs.

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(Getty Images)

When census data is released, it’s used for all sorts of things. One of the uses people hear about right away is redistricting.

But it’s also used at the local level by health officials to analyze programs and see how needs can be met, said Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Public Health and Human Services.

Lee’s office looks at the county’s population figures in segments. Children age 3 and under, and adults over age 65 are of particular interest, he said. The department also runs a mental health program for people serving time in the Carlton County Jail; collaborates with local schools on readiness initiatives; and coordinates child protective services, among others.

Preliminary 2020 census data released in August indicates the county grew by 821 people overall.

Officials will dive into those figures, which are compiled once every 10 years, and examine existing programs to see who those programs are serving and if there are people who are being overlooked, Lee said.

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Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

“It helps us understand where we’re allocating our resources,” he said.

An initiative launched in August called Well Within Reach puts all those resources in one place for anyone looking to improve their well-being, said Ali Randall, public health educator.

“The whole point of it was kind of to serve as a marketing train station, if you will,” Randall said. “All the work that we’re doing, we’re really just trying to promote it and to make sure people know that these resources and the work that’s happening is within reach, so you can get these resources and they’re there for you.”

The Well Within Reach website focuses on people, place, equity and resources. It includes event calendars from the county, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the United Way of Carlton County. People can also find volunteer opportunities or access guides on local resources. The initiative is funded through a federal COVID-19 grant, Randall said.

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Carlton County recently launched the Well Within Reach initiative to highlight well-being resources. Contributed / Carlton County

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“The more you educate someone on their well-being, usually the better off it is. We want to make sure people are knowledgeable and have the resources, too,” Randall said.

Officials are able to track the number of visitors the website receives, which will be one factor they look at in gauging the initiative’s success. Randall said they will also use surveys.

While the effort highlights programs already available in the county, Randall said officials know they have more work to do and hope the campaign will push people to get involved in areas where resources are lacking.

“We know that things like equitable housing and other topics are a little less within reach, so it’s kind of that pull to get people involved,” she said.

For more information about Well Within Reach, visit well-within-reach-carltoncounty.hub.arcgis.com .

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is the regional editor for Duluth Media Group, overseeing the Cloquet Pine Journal and the Superior Telegram.
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