This piece was originally published in the April 2019 issue of Policy & Practice magazine.

When humans and machines collaborate: Four lessons from the fight to reduce infant mortality

This article shares highlights of how one state is enabling effective human-machine collaboration to tackle an important social and public health challenge: Infant mortality.

The machines include a data lake built on the Cloudera platform, machine learning tools and techniques for generating new insights, and powerful visualization capabilities for interacting with those insights.

But what’s most exciting isn’t the particulars of these technologies; it’s how the state is approaching the effort. That’s the human part.

This state has flipped the script on gathering and using data in support of better outcomes. In doing so, it is demonstrating the potential of collaboration between humans and technology and how each can make unique contributions in support of better outcomes.

Here are four lessons this state and its partners have been learning along the way:

  1. Envision the destination
    This state took an unconventional approach—starting with a list of questions rather than a roster of data sources.
  2. Work across disciplines
    In addition to tapping the expertise of data and analytics specialists, this state is leveraging multidisciplinary experts spanning medicine, Medicaid, casework, law and epidemiology.
  3. Stay flexible
    Rather than relying on a long list of detailed requirements, the state has structured the work around guideposts and remained willing to pivot based on what data-driven answers reveal.
  4. Engage the ecosystem
    Beyond the core multidisciplinary team, the state has engaged a variety of stakeholders on the journey to reduce infant mortality.

Meet the team

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