Assessing Community Health

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

Community health needs assessments (CHNA) ensure that local health care providers have the information necessary to improve decision making and resource allocation as they strive to improve their community’s health.

A CHNA is a systematic evaluation of a region’s health needs based on comprehensive data collection and analysis. CHNAs must also take into account input from “persons who represent the broad interests of the community served by the health care organization, including those with special knowledge of or expertise in public health.”

The Benefits of a CHNA

A CHNA is the foundation for developing a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) which is the long-term strategic plan for addressing the needs identified in the CHNA. Local public health organizations seeking accreditation must conduct a CHNA every five years.

A CHNA determines:

· Health issue experiences and perceptions of community members,

· Gaps in health care services,

· Demographics of the populations as well as those most impacted by the gaps,

· Socioeconomic conditions of the community which may underly health issues,

· The leading causes of preventable morbidity and mortality,

· Characteristics of those who most frequently use the ambulance service,

· The greatest health care needs as seen by local medical providers.

Conducting a CHNA – Stakeholder Input

Even in small, rural communities there can be many health care providers including a rural hospital, community clinics, senior service providers and homes, substance abuse organizations, mental health counselors, dentists, vision clinics, and emergency services. Their business models range from non-profit to private practices to public services. Facilitated stakeholder meetings will start to identify the extent of resources within each health care category and gaps. A Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats (SWOT) meeting format is an effective approach for engaging a broader audience of concerned citizens and seeking consensus.

Conducting a CHNA – Data Analysis

Relevant data is available from many sources. Every service provider will have anonymized records. National non-profits track health metrics by county. State agencies record information at the municipal and county level, as does the U.S. Census. In addition to health-specific data, socioeconomic and demographic trends underly a community’s health.

Surveying the experiences, perceptions, preferences and opinions of the community at large is necessary for zeroing in on “what matters most”, whereas the state and national data describes the underlying causes.

Identifying Community Health Solutions

By combining the experiences of practicing professionals, the perceptions of community members, and data from all points on the heath and socioeconomic spectrums, a narrative will emerge that explains a community’s health needs. At Triple Point we refer to this process at “triangulation”, an effective way to identify community health solutions.

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