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Community Health Assessment aNd Group Evaluation (CHANGE) is a data-collection tool and planning resource for community members who want to make their community a healthier one. This tool walks community team members through the assessment process and helps define and prioritize possible areas of improvement. Having this information as a guide, community team members can create sustainable, community-based improvements that address the root causes of chronic diseases and related risk factors. It can be used annually to assess current policy, systems, and environmental change strategies and offer new priorities for future efforts.

Purpose of the CHANGE Tool

The purpose of the CHANGE Tool is to:

  • Identify community strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Identify and understand the status of community health needs.
  • Define improvement areas to guide the community towards population-based strategies that create a healthier environment (e.g., increased physical activity, improved nutrition, reduced tobacco use and exposure, and chronic disease management).
  • Assist with prioritizing community needs and consider appropriate allocation of available resources.

CHANGE Tool Benefits

  • Allows local stakeholders to work together in a collaborative process to survey their community.
  • Offers suggestions and examples of policy, systems, and environmental change strategies.
  • Provides feedback to communities as they institute local-level change for healthy living.

How to Complete the CHANGE Tool

The CHANGE tool involves eight action steps. Much of your effort should be focused initially on establishing a strong community team. This section will walk you through these steps in more detail. Consider the other activities being conducted in your community that may complement the work you need to do to complete the CHANGE tool. For example, will the completion of this tool coincide with the initial formation of your community team? Do not start the CHANGE process without a community team. The estimated timeline to complete the CHANGE tool is 3-5 months. However, that range will vary depending on the characteristics of each community. If a community team already exists, the process should be much faster. If there is a dedicated person who is coordinating CHANGE activities for the community team, the process should be shorter than if multiple or even a single person is spending only a portion of his or her time on CHANGE activities. Keep in mind that, typically, members of the community team are donating their time and have other commitments, which may extend or shrink the overall timeline for completing CHANGE. Pace your activities to take full advantage of members’ time, and ensure their shared ownership of the process.

The tool comprises a set of easy-to-use Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheets for collection of local-level data from schools, work sites, community organizations, and health care facilities. CHANGE walks you through a community assessment process and helps define and prioritize improvement areas by providing community-level data on current policy, systems, and environmental change strategies. With CHANGE data as a guide, you can map out a course for health improvement in your community with specific, targeted action. The CHANGE tool improves community health with feedback on actions that should be developed and implemented to transform communities into those that support healthy living.

Tracking Progress with the CHANGE Tool

CHANGE is a data-collection tool that allows community team members to track progress across a five-point scale, so incremental changes can be noted. As problem areas are identified, health-related policies are implemented, and systems and environmental change strategies are put in place, team members can document the community-level changes.