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  • Writer's pictureYoung American Policy Advocates

Data Analysis Skill Building Session by YAPA

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

Last Saturday, YAPA hosted its third and final 2020 cohort meeting before the cohort-wide YIA closing conference on October 31. The meeting covered announcements, a skill-building section hosted by Ana Sucaldito, a mentor of YAPA’s COVID-19 Healthcare and Equity advocacy group, and short progress reports from students in each advocacy group.

Sucaldito is a Filipina-American living in Columbus, Ohio. She recently graduated with a Bachelor's and Master's in Public Health and is currently a PhD candidate at Ohio State University. Sucaldito is a community advocate and is passionate about addressing health inequities, especially among racial and ethnic minorities. Some of her advocacy work is in regards to accessibility and elucidation of Asian American mental health and disparities.

Sucaldito is currently a mentor of the COVID-19 Healthcare and Equity advocacy group at YAPA along with Dr. Albert Wang MD, who is an internist and member of the Board of Directors at Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group.

The skill building exercise led by Sucaldito taught students important skills and tips for evaluating and using data to argue for or against policy. Furthermore, Sucaldito spoke about hidden subjectivity and how to recognize it, as well as the importance of recognizing the bias that is present in all data regardless of quality.

Sucaldito explained that data and statistics can be influenced by the views, goals, and beliefs of the people collecting the data, as well as the people who are presenting it. How we describe and collect data can create this subjectivity.

“This consideration is so important in policy and advocacy because these things are defined, driven, and defended by data,” she said.

In addition to her presentation, Sucaldito also facilitated several breakout room activities where students discussed and analyzed mock data about Asian American mental health disparities to recognize biases and formulate an argument for a policy stance. Students identified how two opposing sides of a policy could utilize the same exact data table to their own advantage, then presented to the whole cohort afterwards.

Sucaldito explained how methods of data collection can contribute to skewed results, as well as how data can be manipulated to present a preferred representation. Students learned about the impact of personal stories and their ability to “show something that numbers just can’t sometimes.” Finally, students learned the importance of knowing one’s audience and using appropriate language and argument presentation to be convincing.

Several students felt that the information they gained from the lesson was new and eye-opening. “I always thought that data were just numbers and that you can always trust them because they are facts,” one student stated. “This presentation opened my eyes and I improved my critical skills today.”

Ultimately, Sucaldito hopes that students who attended the cohort meeting were able to take away something to help develop their critical thinking and data analyzation skills, she said. “I want students to feel comfortable, and to feel that they have the appropriate skills to advocate for any topic they’re passionate about.”

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