Data & Benchmarks

Community health assessments typically use both primary and secondary data to characterize the health of the community:

  • Primary data are collected first-hand through surveys, listening sessions, interviews, and observations
  • Secondary data are collected by another entity or for another purpose
  • Indicators are secondary data that have been analyzed and can be used to compare rates or trends of priority community health outcomes and determinants

Data and indicator analyses provide descriptive information on demographic and socioeconomic characteristics; they can be used to monitor progress and determine whether actions have the desired effect. They also characterize important parts of health status and health determinants, such as behavior, social and physical environments, and healthcare use.

Community health assessment indicators should be

  • Methodologically sound (valid, reliable, and collected over time)
  • Feasible (available or collectable)
  • Meaningful (relevant, actionable, and ideally, linked to evidence-based interventions)
  • Important (linked to significant disease burden or disparity in the target community)

Jurisdictions should consider using data and indicators for the smallest geographic locations possible (e.g., county-, census block-, or zip code-level data), to enhance the identification of local assets and gaps.

Sources of community-level indicators that have been benchmarked within states or among peers

  • County Health Rankings and Roadmapsexternal icon
    The annual Rankings measure vital health factors, including high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, unemployment, access to healthy foods, the quality of air and water, income inequality, and teen births in nearly every county in America. They provide a snapshot of how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play.
  • Prevention Status Reports (PSRs)
    The PSRs highlight—for all 50 states and the District of Columbia—the status of public health policies and practices designed to prevent or reduce important public health problems.

Sources of community-level indicators

Other sources

Links to nonfederal materials are provided as a public service and do not constitute an endorsement of the materials by CDC or the federal government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of materials not generated by CDC.

Page last reviewed: August 30, 2017