Assessment is the systematic collection, assembly, analysis, and dissemination of information about the health of a community, and is one of the core functions of public health.1 The 1988 Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Public Health, emphasized the importance of strengthening the core functions and identified assessment as a fundamental requirement to guide public health decision making.2
To meet that need, CDC began the Assessment Initiative (AI) in 1992 in partnership with various state health departments. The AI supported the development of innovative systems and methods that improve access to health data and the way data are used to inform and guide leaders involved in planning, developing, and evaluating health policies and interventions. CDC currently funds the participation of nine states including Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
AI states collaborate with their local health jurisdictions and communities on two main areas:
- Community Health Assessment Practice
States develop and implement tools, strategies, and approaches to improve the capacity of local public health agencies and communities to conduct effective community health assessments.
- Data Dissemination Systems
States implement interactive Web-based data query systems for user-friendly analysis and dissemination of public health data to users including policy makers, researchers, public health professionals, and the public.
Public Health Impact
Over the years, AI activities included developing practical tools and electronic systems to improve population data access to users such as researchers, public health professionals, and the public. AI funds have been used to provide training to local and state public health professionals to increase interpretation, understanding, and use of public health surveillance data.
Outcomes of the AI have been disseminated to the broader public health community, including federal, state, and local health agencies and other partners. The AI has encouraged opportunities for collaboration and networking among funded states and organizations, and provided public health workforce training and professional development for state and local public health professionals through conferences, Web-based training, and research publications.
1 Stoto MA, Abel C, and Dievler A, eds. Healthy Communities: New Partnerships for the Future of Public Health. Institute of Medicine. Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, 1996.
2 The Committee for the Study of the Future of Public Health Division of Health Care Services. The Future of Public Health. Institute of Medicine. Washington D.C., National Academy Press, 1988.