Since 1995, The Community Assessment Project (CAP) of Santa Cruz County has served as the data lynchpin to meet community goals ranging from access to medical and dental care to reduced crime, school readiness, increased jobs, community involvement and improved wetlands. Far from another report sitting on the shelf gathering dust,  the Community Assessment Project has led to powerful changes in Santa Cruz County:

Using data from the CAP to increase public engagement, local collaboratives  are “turning the curve” on teen alcohol and other drug use (insert link) and child safety.  Just publishing data on low rates collection of child support payments led to hiring new staff, better pay for existing workers—and higher rates of collection.

When CAP data revealed that Latinos, who comprise a quarter of the County’s population, fared worse than other groups on almost every indicator, a group of concerned citizens formed the Latino Strategic Planning Committee.  The coalition has developed their own plan and goals to improve the quality of life for the Latino community.

In seeking to quantify quality of life data across multiple jurisdictions for CAP, the County’sheriff and local police departments have agreed to collect uniform data on gang related crimes and domestic violence.  Similarly, nearly all of the school districts in the county have developed a common attendance reporting process.

Cities, the county, and United Way are working toward establishing a common application for contractors seeking human services based on client outcomes,

The Community Assessment Project “provides a comprehensive view of the quality of life” over the last 6 years in Santa Cruz county by tracking over 100 indicators, related to seventeen community goals in six areas–the economy, education, health, public safety, natural environment and social environment.  The purpose of the data book is to raise public awareness of needs, trends, emerging issues and community problems; provide ongoing data for human services and program planners and funders; establish community goals with measurable a indicators; and support collaborative action to achieve the goals.

Indicators were originally selected enlisting the help of technical assistance advisory committees, involving 650 county residents. These people had an expertise in each of the 6 indicator areas; education, economics, health, public safety, the social environment and the natural environment.  The TAC’s brainstormed the issues of importance and a research and selection criteria, along with discussion and prioritization  was used to determine the indicators.   In each area a few “key indicators” are designated to represent the best overall “snapshot” of the changing conditions in that particular subject area.  (insert scanned picture of a page.)  As new issues emerge, indicators are added to the Community Assessment Project, retaining the CAP’s value as the single most useful source for quality of life data.  Each indicator includes a “plain English” definition, data shown over time, and the data source.

Guided and funded by a 33-member steering committee representing a cross-section of major employers, United Way, public and private human services agencies, cities, counties, the press, schools and colleges, neighborhood, environmental, advocacy and health organizations, parents and local activists, the massive project is staffed by United Way of Santa Cruz County and Applied Survey Research, a private, non-profit research group.

Primary and secondary data are gathered annually. Each March, project researchers conduct 30-minute telephone surveys of  over 500 county residents in both English and Spanish, representing the overall demographics of the county  as well as special population groups.  Secondary data is collected from government agencies, academic institutions, economic development groups, libraries, schools, health care organizations, law enforcement, fire departments, internet databases, etc.

Release of the report, published  in three formats, has become an annual event  covered widely by the local press.  A 16-page full-color Summary Report which includes ‘the story behind the curve’ on a few key indicators is distributed to every household in Santa Cruz County.  Also available are a 350-page comprehensive report including all indicators, community goals, survey data, and GIS systems and an 8-page Community Report Card showing  approximately 50 trends on high-visibility indicators (  In addition,  customized reports tailored to geographic and demographic specifications are available upon request.

tools–:  For California statewide comparisons, see The Healthy California Progress Report at


United Way website under development


Tips and advice from Mary Lou Goeke:


Secure the financial sponsorship from a broad base of local community organizations.  If people pay for it, they will value and use it.  Financial sponsorship from one large temporary source outside your community is the kiss of death for future sustainability.

Report the data and evaluate the project every year.  Surveys of your users can be quite revealing!

Be very careful about the accuracy and display of your data so that people do not draw the wrong conclusions about the meaning.  Not all users are sophisticated about statistics and the wrong conclusions drawn can be damaging to your community partners and to your project’s credibility.

Find several different formats to report your findings and tell the story of your successes.

Some trends change slowly and little over time.  Find a variety of ways to keep your public informed on the progress toward your community goals.  Our Community Heroes contest sponsored by one of our daily newspapers annually celebrates our Heroes and the Community Goals we are trying to achieve.

Tips and advice from Susan Brutschy, CAP project director at Applied Survey Research

      Targeted involvement at all levels of the community is the key

In-kind contributions promote action

Evaluate accomplishments and process annually

Remember to keep your ‘eye on the Prize’ ‘ Use the data to support community action!

Take advantage of a wider dissemination of the project results: Web sites, national database archives, etc.

Remember the data display is critical to encouraging the usability of the report

Social marketing of the findings and the products takes time and commitment. Research these activities.


Susan Brutschy, CAP project director, Applied Survey Research,

PO Box 1927

Watsonville, CA  95077


Fax:  831/728-3374

Mary Lou Goeke,  Executive Director, United Way of Santa Cruz County,

PO Box 1458, Capitola, CA  95010

Telephone 831/479-5466

Fax:  831/479-5477

e-mail ‘

  Quality of Life

Indicator 48

Teen Pregnancy

Teen births, especially to teens less than 18 years of age are generally considered unplanned pregnancies.  Many of these young mothers drop out of school and depend upon a variety of public funded programs for support for themselves and their children.

Teen Births: Santa Cruz County and State Comparisons

Teen Births          1995      1996          1997    1998

Number of Births                475          428          400          409

Percent of Total Births     12.4          11.1        10.1          10.8

California          12.4        11.9          11.6            –

Teen Births by Age, Santa Cruz County

Age       1995          1996      1997          1998

14 & Under          18              10          8                9

1 5             44          24              40          29

16-17       164          138          127          137

18-19       249          256          225          234

Total       475          428          400          409

Teen Births by Ethnicity, Santa Cruz County

Age       1995          1996      1997          1998

Caucasian 120          98              82          61

Hispanic  343          323          308          330

African American              6          1                  5          8

Asian           4          1                  2          5

Other           2          5                  3          5

Total       475          428          400          409

Source:   Santa Cruz Counly Birth Certificate Summary, 1998.Note: Teens are up to 20 years of age

MarcThe Santa Cruz county-wide data book is a powerful tool for community change