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The hardest Community Health Assessment step and how to overcome it

Community Health Assessment step

Data is at the heart of a Community Health Assessment. CHAs exist to collect community input, use that feedback to identify unmet needs and intervene effectively. A CHA cannot be fully effective without accurate, community-focused data.

But these data are not easy for public health departments to locate, acquire, format or interpret — even if it comes from a single, reliable source. CHA data must be high-volume, high-quality and diverse. That takes time, staff and expertise which are often in short supply at public health departments.

Faced with this daunting effort, health departments may rush past data to intervention, which could be a costly mistake. They may lose sight of the CHA's purpose beyond accreditation, make incorrect assumptions about community needs and ignore better resources.

While data may be the most difficult CHA step, there are three ways you can help minimize the complexity.

Overcome CHA data collection challenges

1. Remember why it matters

Improved community health drives the spirit and intention of a CHA. If you’re feeling challenged, it’s important to remind yourself of the CHA’s significance — and the importance of community health. Some methods you can use to inspire yourself, include:

  • remembering your health department’s role in improving outcomes at the population level;
  • thinking about the lives you’ll improve;
  • creating scenarios on how you can positively impact community health; and
  • looking over your specific goals and desired outcomes.

On top of realigning your efforts, the process may also generate new ideas and questions such as, ”Is the CHA data pointing to where there’s a greater need?” or “Where are hunger and transportation insecurity the highest?” or “Is affordable housing a bigger issue for a different set of ZIP codes?”

2. Validate your data and partners

Health departments often rely on data from hospital Community Health Needs Assessments to conduct their own CHA. However, hospitals may also struggle with the same concerns as health departments, e.g., insufficient data, staff and fact-based community knowledge, so the hospital-sourced data may also need validation

To help validate hospital CHNA data and ensure health improvement efforts remain focused and effective, health departments can ask these five questions:

  1. Who are our community members and partners?
  2. What are our local health needs?
  3. What data do we already have and is it organized, current and accurate?
  4. Do we have the resources to improve it?
  5. What is missing and can we figure it out?

Health departments should also collaborate closely with their partners. Community-based organizations may know what solutions will work on a localized scale compared to their health department, which has a broader focus. This is a common practice used to validate collected data from partners while generating additional insights.

3. Get external help

Meeting the spirit of CHA requires a lot of work and patience. With health departments already being stretched, adding more tasks to your plate can feel overwhelming. However, you don’t have to go through your CHA alone.

Analytics-first partners like DataGen can guide public health departments through data collection and analysis and collaboration with hospitals and CBOs, including validation of their data contributions. Many of the questions and processes are the same as those in step two, e.g., identifying meaningful data, populations and interventions.

Make the hardest step easier

Accurate CHA data reflects a community’s health realities. This in turn helps to ensure a valid and effective CHA. In other words, you need accurate external information and internal data to reflect your community’s entire health landscape. Contact DataGen to learn more about our CHA Advantage solution.

Want to see exactly how you can obtain CHA information? Request a free demo today and let us demonstrate our key product features, such as affordable data analysis, process design and assessment templates.

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