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Using data to track reforms

This article appears in the issue January 2002 [Volume 11, Issue 1]


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User stories from the knowledge front

The impact of welfare reform in North Carolina will be analyzed via newly installed data management software at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill .

The data quality and integration solution from DataFlux will be used by faculty and students to cleanse, enhance and integrate data for a variety of projects. The first department within UNC to use the software will be the School of Social Work.

The School of Social Work has built a number of large databases that track every family and individual who has received cash assistance, which is called Work First in North Carolina, and the food stamp program. The university also provides data and analytical support to the counties because North Carolina has a state-supervised, but county-administered welfare program. The databases, which track more than 1.3 million individuals, are running on a dedicated Sun ES450 Unix server with a Windows NT front end. One of the department’s challenges was to standardize and link the databases to follow people through the programs and to track the number of cases in particular counties.

Says Dean Duncan, clinical associate professor at the School of Social Work, “We chose [the solution] for standardizing and integrating data from a variety of internal and external data sources. For example, with the Work First program, we are tracking trends such as how many people have left the program, their involvement with other assistance programs and how many people return to the program. In this case, the quality of incoming data is enhanced in order to provide more accurate results for reporting and analysis.”

Describing the software as an efficient product suite with an intuitive point-and-click interface, Duncan adds, “We have a lot of graduate students working on these projects, and I think it’s something that they’ll learn and become very proficient at in a short period of time. We’re looking forward to a significant return on investment.”

Tony Fisher, president of North Carolina-based DataFlux, says, “We have designed our solutions to be easily installed, integrated and operated by individual users without the need for ongoing technical support. We look forward to seeing the many ways in which the faculty and students at UNC Chapel Hill will apply these tools.”


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