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Community Health Assessments & Health Improvement Plans

What Is a Community Health Assessment?

A community health assessment (sometimes called a CHA), also known as community health needs assessment (sometimes called a CHNA), refers to a state, tribal, local, or territorial health assessment that identifies key health needs and issues through systematic, comprehensive data collection and analysis. Community health assessments use such principles as

  • Multisector collaborations that support shared ownership of all phases of community health improvement, including assessment, planning, investment, implementation, and evaluation
  • Proactive, broad, and diverse community engagement to improve results
  • A definition of community that encompasses both a significant enough area to allow for population-wide interventions and measurable results, and includes a targeted focus to address disparities among subpopulations
  • Maximum transparency to improve community engagement and accountability
  • Use of evidence-based interventions and encouragement of innovative practices with thorough evaluation
  • Evaluation to inform a continuous improvement process
  • Use of the highest quality data pooled from, and shared among, diverse public and private sources

From Principles to Consider for the Implementation of a Community Health Needs Assessment Process [PDF - 457KB] (June 2013), Sara Rosenbaum, JD, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Department of Health Policy.

The Public Health Accreditation board defines community health assessment as a systematic examination of the health status indicators for a given population that is used to identify key problems and assets in a community. The ultimate goal of a community health assessment is to develop strategies to address the community’s health needs and identified issues. A variety of tools and processes may be used to conduct a community health assessment; the essential ingredients are community engagement and collaborative participation.
Turnock B. Public Health: What It Is and How It Works. Jones and Bartlett, 2009, as adapted in Public Health Accreditation Board Acronyms and Glossary of Terms Version 1.0 [PDF - 536KB], July 2011.

The Catholic Health Association defines a community health needs assessment as a systematic process involving the community to identify and analyze community health needs and assets in order to prioritize these needs, and to plan and act upon unmet community health needs.”
—Catholic Health Association, Guide to Assessing and Addressing Community Health Needs, June 2013.

What Is a Community Health Improvement Plan?

A community health improvement plan (or CHIP) is a long-term, systematic effort to address public health problems based on the results of community health assessment activities and the community health improvement process. A plan is typically updated every three to five years.

The Public Health Accreditation Board defines a community health improvement plan as a long-term, systematic effort to address public health problems on the basis of the results of community health assessment activities and the community health improvement process. This plan is used by health and other governmental education and human service agencies, in collaboration with community partners, to set priorities and coordinate and target resources. A community health improvement plan is critical for developing policies and defining actions to target efforts that promote health. It should define the vision for the health of the community through a collaborative process and should address the gamut of strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities that exist in the community to improve the health status of that community.
Public Health Accreditation Board Acronyms and Glossary of Terms Version 1.0 [PDF - 536KB], July 2011, as adapted from Healthy People 2010 and CDC’s National Public Health Performance Standards Program.

Why Complete an Assessment and Improvement Plan?

A community health assessment gives organizations comprehensive information about the community’s current health status, needs, and issues. This information can help develop a community health improvement plan by justifying how and where resources should be allocated to best meet community needs.

Benefits include

  • Improved organizational and community coordination and collaboration
  • Increased knowledge about public health and the interconnectedness of activities
  • Strengthened partnerships within state and local public health systems
  • Identified strengths and weaknesses to address in quality improvement efforts
  • Baselines on performance to use in preparing for accreditation
  • Benchmarks for public health practice improvements

 

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