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What is the purpose of a Community Health Assessment?

Group of people smiling and clapping after finishing a meeting on the purpose of a Community Health Assessment.

The purpose of a Community Health Assessment goes beyond achieving state requirements or receiving accreditation. If you're a local health department, you may be interested in finding ways to push your CHA data further to more easily identify ways to improve health equity and community outcomes. Focusing only on submission can be counter-productive to the community outcomes you want to achieve.

In this blog, we'll give you an overview of the importance of conducting a CHA. Plus, we'll provide you with key information you can use to reset your workflow and rethink your processes.

Why you need to complete a Community Health Assessment

Certain states require a CHA because it provides a systematic review of a community's health status and essential data and information regarding the health of the community.

Specifically, the New York state Department of Health writes, "Community health assessment is a fundamental tool of public health practice. Its aim is to describe the health of the community, by presenting information on health status, community health needs, resources, and epidemiologic and other studies of current local health problems."

States like New York require the CHA to be submitted as a part of a Community Health Improvement Plan. This allows New York to ensure that local health departments have taken the appropriate time to capture their communities’ health needs. It also enables them to see how health improvement will be measured in their CHIP.

By completing a CHA, you’ll gain valuable expertise on how to address health needs and implement strategy. This can help organizations like hospitals complete their Community Health Needs Assessment requirements every three years. Another reason to complete a CHA could be for Public Health Accreditation Board accreditation. PHAB accreditation and recognition help organizations demonstrate their willingness to improve quality and performance. Benefits include:

  • better serving communities;
  • strengthening health departments;
  • improving public health response; and
  • developing a culture of quality and performance improvement.

What is the purpose of completing a CHA?

By focusing only on CHA/CHIP submission or PHAB accreditation, you can miss out on the CHA's main purposes:

  • understanding community health needs;
  • identifying resources;
  • developing strategies; and
  • forming partnerships.

It's important to think about CHAs as more than a requirement. Its purpose is to get health departments involved with their communities, allowing them to promote and achieve health equity. In the next section, we'll identify some ways to better align your work with the purpose of the CHA. Also, be sure to check out this blog to learn the hardest CHA step and how to overcome it.

Helpful tips to refresh your CHA process

1. Have clear responsibilities

A CHA requires a lot of information. If you don't know who captures what data, you may not know who is responsible for what task. Everyone knows who the CEO is — but only a few may know the person pulling data in a health department's archives.

This can result in missed deadlines and confusion over who to contact at community-based organizations. Take time to learn who is involved in the process from start to finish.

2. Create a data identification structure

A data identification structure is essential. It tells you what you're capturing, how you're finding it and if it's publicly and/or locally reported. This can be helpful since the CHA is cycled every two years. Once you're done with one, you start the process for the next one.

3. Rethink external participation

When complete the CHA and Community Health Improvement Planning, you’ll need to have your board sign a statement to adopt the CHA/CHIP. The board is required to adopt the CHA/CHIP before it can be submitted. Therefore, it’s essential that you give yourself and your board enough time to review your CHA/CHIP. This can prevent any possible delays in approval and submission.

Also, if you’re looking for true community data, don’t overlook the power of facilitating focus groups. Focus groups will give you helpful qualitative data that you can use to reinforce your data findings. They may also shed light on trends or other assumptions. This can be good when trying to avoid biases.

4. Use external resources

The National Association of County and City Health Officials has helpful resources for completing your CHA/CHIP. They're a well-known entity PHAB trusts to help create and compile CHA reports. One of their most-used resources is the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships toolkit. MAPP 2.0 provides step-by-step guidance for CHA's three-phrase process.

DataGen uses this in our CHA Advantage product to ensure clients follow all MAPP guidelines to receive PHAB accreditation.

5. Let the data drive your focus

If your organization has completed a CHA several times, let data drive your focus. Avoid making assumptions and use the data to drive what you want to improve or capture. Also, think about ways you can expand your data to capture insights you haven't looked at yet.

How new data can level up your CHA

DataGen CHA Advantage acts like your personal quantitative and qualitative data archive. With over 200 curated metrics from 20 different domains of data points (public and private), you can dig deeper at the county, ZIP code and census-tract levels. We save you time with pre-packaged quantitative data that's not publicly available. You also gain:

  • a ready-to-use survey tool to more easily capture qualitative and quantitative data;
  • 26 helpful documents, guides, lists, templates and worksheets;
  • full report template we can help populate; and
  • personalized one-on-one support that gets you to the finish line, i.e., CHA submission.

Contact us today to learn how to reduce months of work into weeks. Also, use our CHA five-month action plan to enhance your results.

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