How Data Can Help Refugees, Homelessness in L.A., Harm Reduction: RAND Weekly Recap

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May 6, 2022

This week, we discuss how tapping into Facebook data can help host countries help refugees; a survey of people experiencing homelessness in L.A.; understanding burnout among military health care providers; leveraging technology to help incarcerated people reenter the community; and how the U.S. should respond to cyberattacks.

Ukrainian refugees arrive at the Przemysl, Poland, train station, March 3, 2022, photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/Alamy

Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/Alamy

How Better Data Can Help Refugees

Russia's war has forced millions of people to flee Ukraine—the most sudden evacuation from a European country since World War II. Detailed, real-time data could help host countries better anticipate the services and support that Ukrainian refugees will need right away—from health care to employment to language help in schools. But getting such data can be difficult.

A few years ago, researchers from RAND and RAND Europe began working on a way to better track migrant numbers. They do it by tapping into one of the largest information-gathering operations on the planet, Facebook.

One particular data point, which Facebook users might recognize as “places lived,” gave researchers what they were looking for. When paired with other information, like age and gender (and with a heavy dose of probability theory and mathematical modeling), the researchers found it could provide a signal for how migration numbers were rising or falling in a state or country.

This approach has shown the value of looking beyond traditional statistics—especially when data is changing by the day or week, not by the year.

Homeless encampments line the bike path on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, April 13, 2021, photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Tent encampments line the bike path on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, April 13, 2021

Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Housing Preferences Among People Experiencing Homelessness in L.A.

A new RAND survey finds that people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles show a near-universal interest in obtaining housing. But about half of those we surveyed remain on the streets despite having been offered housing in the past. What might explain this? The type of housing offered matters a great deal. For instance, less than one-third of respondents are willing to live in a group shelter. Around 80 percent said that they would accept a private room in a shelter or hotel, or permanent housing.

Boxes of naloxone spray and fentanyl test strips in a container at The Legionnaire bar in Oakland, California, March 3, 2022, photo by Nathan Frandino/Reuters

Boxes of naloxone spray and fentanyl test strips at the Legionnaire bar in Oakland, California, March 3, 2022

Photo by Nathan Frandino/Reuters

A New Response to Synthetic Opioids

More than 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2021—double the number who died in 2015. The reason for this surge in death is not so much that more Americans are using drugs but that the supply of illegal drugs is becoming increasingly toxic, thanks to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. According to RAND experts, new approaches are needed to stem the crisis. Harm reduction efforts, such as increasing access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone and fentanyl test strips, can help save lives.

A doctor giving a vaccine to a military service member, photo by South_agency/Getty Images

Photo by South_agency/Getty Images

Assessing Burnout Among Military Health Care Providers

Burnout among health care providers poses a critical threat to mental and behavioral health care. In a new report, RAND researchers document what is known about burnout, demonstrate its prevalence in health care facilities, evaluate potential risk factors, and outline approaches for addressing burnout among military health care professionals.

Inmate Marvin Worthy uses his JPay tablet device inside the East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey, July 12, 2018, photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Inmate Marvin Worthy uses his JPay tablet device inside the East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey, July 12, 2018

Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Leveraging Technology to Help Prisoners Reenter the Community

Video visits with family members. Online education programs. Practicing job interviews using virtual reality. Technology can help support incarcerated individuals as they prepare to return to the community, but there are challenges to implementing such solutions. To understand how technology can be better leveraged in corrections settings, RAND convened a workshop of experts, including prison, jail, and parole administrators; community-based service providers; and researchers.

Blue and red cables transmitting data signals, image by Alexey Novikov/Adobe Stock

Image by Alexey Novikov/Adobe Stock

How Should the U.S. Respond to Cyberattacks?

The United States has proved vulnerable to cyber incidents, and a lack of response has emboldened Russia and China to expand their cyber espionage activities. To address this, a new RAND report recommends that the United States broaden its cyber response options. This could be achieved by focusing more on diplomatic engagement, expanding efforts to root out adversaries, and employing more-sophisticated counterintelligence techniques, such as deception.

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