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The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation Uses ACS Data to Identify Populations in Need

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The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation Uses ACS Data to Identify Populations in Need

Rachel Blakeman and Mark Cullnane, Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Community Research Institute

Data Story

The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation (The St. Joe Foundation) serves the poor in body, mind, and spirit to achieve quality health and wellness for underserved populations in Northeast Indiana. The foundation’s recent efforts focus on social determinants of health, such as access to healthcare services, and addressing the unique needs of immigrant and refugee populations, as well as new mothers and infants. With this focus in mind, The St. Joe Foundation wanted to target its grant funding in the local community.

The St. Joe Foundation commissioned Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Community Research Institute (CRI) to evaluate Allen County, Indiana in order to identify geographic concentrations of vulnerable populations to help the foundation use place-based philanthropy.  CRI created the Vulnerable Populations Study using 2012-2016 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year data at the ZIP Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) geographic level for all 30+ ZIP codes within Allen County. These data were then compared to county-level ACS data for Allen County to locate areas of vulnerable populations with the funding priorities of the foundation in mind.

The ACS is the only publicly available dataset providing social, economic, housing, and demographic data for small geographies. The ACS provides data related to many social determinants of health, such as English-language proficiency, health insurance coverage, plus race and ethnicity, to provide a clear picture of vulnerable populations at the local level.


In 2019, The St. Joe Foundation fine-tuned its grant making process to prioritize underserved neighborhoods identified in the Vulnerable Populations Study. In turn, grant applicants also used data from the report in their applications to demonstrate either community need or how the foundation’s funding would help alleviate burdens the report highlighted.

Catholic Charities, a non-profit providing services to people in need, listed the share of Spanish-speaking residents with low English proficiency in certain ZCTAs as measured in the ACS. This highlighted the need for a Hispanic Health Advocate (HHA), so The St. Joe Foundation funded this request to assist 100 people. The HHA program serves those who need Spanish-translation services in vital areas such as healthcare so they can communicate clearly with medical providers and receive appropriate treatment without the risk of miscommunication due to a language barrier. The HHA program used the study to explain that over 25% of individuals without health insurance in Allen County are Hispanic and that over 10% of Allen County residents speak a language other than English in their home.

Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House was another program funded by The St. Joe Foundation. The non-profit offers temporary, minimal-cost lodging to parents and families of children receiving medical care away from home in Fort Wayne, serving 500 individuals annually.  Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House demonstrated need in their grant application by emphasizing the share of parents unable to pay the suggested donation of $10/night, tying it to the share of families receiving Medicaid and the larger burden of adults without health insurance based on ACS data used in the Vulnerable Populations Study. They received a grant of $1,500 towards their overall program as a result of the data. 

In addition to grant writing, local social service and government agencies also found the Vulnerable Populations Study useful for planning and understanding the location of vulnerable communities within Allen County, Indiana. ACS data enable The St. Joe Foundation to make data-informed decisions, aligned with the foundation’s goals, to put its dollars to work in the areas of greatest need.


Allen County, Indiana

ACS Topics Used

Educational attainment, age, sex, race, Hispanic or Latino origin, income and earnings, place of birth, health insurance coverage, language spoken at home, poverty status, average family size, disability status, employment status, marital status, housing tenure, number of rooms and households, and year structure built

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