How to Conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment
Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs) are vital to determining how resources and services should be allocated in an area to meet community demand. Not only do they help you diagnose where the highest need for healthcare services is, they serve as a great opportunity to speak directly with your community.
As a geographic-based assessment of health needs, CHNAs cover the current health status, needs and issues the community is facing, but also serve to create strategies to meet those needs and overcome challenges. As a part of the Affordable Care Act, all nonprofit hospitals must complete a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years. CNHAs are also required to qualify for a Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which can be a key source of funding for some providers.
How To Complete a Community Health Needs Assessment
There are five primary Steps to completing an assessment:
- Identify and define the Scope
- Collect data & information
- Complete your analysis
- Present your findings
- Implement change
1. Identify Your Region & Define your Scope
The region in question can be as small as a town or as large as a state, but it needs to be strictly identified before starting an analysis. Consider what makes your area unique, what culture your community has, and what resources or community centers are the bedrock of public life in your area. Make sure to note what current resources and programs your community has and gather information from any other prior CNHAs. You may also want to consider want to consider partnering with health organizations in adjacent counties with similar makeups to pool resources.
This is key to your entire analysis and will change depending on your organization and its goals. Make sure your scope isn’t so large that your analysis becomes unwieldly. It’s better to have an idea of what gaps you can or want to fill. For example, food banks may focus on access to food and analyze information on food deserts, while hospitals may focus on access to care and health needs in the community.
2. Gathering Data
Getting the right data is key for a successful CHNA. You’ll need a variety of data sources to get a real sense of where gaps are in local services and to accurately capture local factors impacting healthcare. You’ll also need different data types, including qualitative data, quantitative data and more. Successful assessments need buy-in from local leaders across the community, so don’t be shy about getting interviews, holding large community meetings, and conducting surveys. The more you engage with your local residents, the better your overall analysis will be and the more trust you build.
Reaching out to community leaders is key for a successful CHNA. Trusted resources of knowledge include:
- Government Officials
- School Board Members
- Non-profit leaders
- Social Services Workers
- Stakeholders who manage the CNA process
- Independent Community Members
There are multiple ways to get data for your Community Health Needs Assessment, but we suggest you gather the intelligence below. You can learn more about acquiring data for CHNAs in our article here.
- Regional Profile: Including area size, geography, surrounding populations and cities.
- Population Demographics: Age, gender and ethnicity demographics. Depending on the area, English as a Second Language (ESL) populations and other languages spoken
- Labor Force & Employment: Including unemployment & employment rate, miltiary population if applicable, large drivers of employment and occupations by category.
- Poverty Information: Average yearly income by area and information on proportion of the population under or near the poverty line.
- Health indicators: Life expectancy data, average doctor visits, chronic disease data, information on access to care, health insurance saturation, disease prevalence rates, drug use and more.
- Education: High school education, partial or less than a high school education, school enrollment, higher education
- Crime Rate & Safety: Number of crimes in the area adjusted for population, perception of safety in the community
- Community Partnerships: Information on local or regional agencies or nonprofits in the region that support the community through social services, etc.
- Community Input: Through forums, surveys, polling and other methods to gather information from local communities and local leaders. Public hearings are a great way to gather feedback.
3. Complete your Analyses & Make your Report
Now that you have all the information you need, it’s time to analyze it. Review the data to determine patterns, trends and identify key findings to build a report. If you get stuck during this process, we’re here to help – click here to reach out.
Your report should include:
1. Participants & Organizers
Identify who created the CHNA, which organizations assisted the process, community members who participated in the process and more.
2. Methodology & Data Sources
Note where data came from, what methodology you used to identify needs and rank needs, alongside any other calculations you included. Include information on any data or other information sources you may be missing to identify any potential gaps in your analysis.
3. Shortcomings & Strengths
Identify strengths and weaknesses in your community today. Understand what programs have worked in the past and identify which programs have not driven the expected results. Pinpoint what opportunities exist to expand current, successful programs or ways to rise up to current challenges. Consider gaps that may exists between current programs and ways support can be extended. Understand challenges your community is facing due to social factors and think of ways to support those most in need.
4. Key Findings
Identify needs in your community based on the data you gathered. Examples of needs are housing & homelessness, access to care, public transportation, employment and more. Here are some examples of ways you can categorize or examine needs:
- Expressed Needs – Needs that people have expressed or believe they require. These can be common complaints in the community, like potholes, lack of transportation or other issues. Make sure to consider that not everyone expresses their needs effectively or in the same space, a great way to understand these needs are to ask the community directly.
- Unexpressed Needs – While doing your research, there will be things no or very few people are talking about, but are important needs, nonetheless. These are unexpressed needs.
- Basic Needs – The bottom two categories of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; includes shelter, food, water, safety and other necessities.
5. Final Recommendations
Your final recommendations should include action plans on what steps you recommend based on your findings. Determine what next steps should be taken, the timeline for implementation, what goals any new programs should achieve and clear measurement criteria to determine success.
4 & 5. Share your Findings & Implement Change
Once your analysis is complete, you have the opportunity to share your findings. Repay the trust your community had in you by making the report accessible to them, announcing the findings, and holding meetings on what you discovered.
Use these meetings and your suggestions to discuss solutions and changes, and get community buy-in on identified priorities. Determine if new programs should be launched, the allotment of resources with other local leaders and identify which service gaps you are targeting.
When it’s time to launch your programs, make sure to communicate it with the community, recruit volunteers, notify donors, send out a press release, plan events, include local news stations and more to make your programs well-known.
Gathering data can be costly and time-consuming, that’s where Intellimed comes in. We’re here to help you get access to the hard numbers so you can focus on gathering input and getting buy-in from your local community. Our experienced data analysts can create models that give you a view into the future, can help visualize current and future chronic disease prevalence and more.
Want more information? Click here to get in touch with us, or check out these resources below:
- The Community Tool Box from the University of Kansas.
- Community Needs Assessment Workbook by the CDC
- Rural Health Information Hub
- Alameda County’s Handbook for Participatory Community Assessments
- The County of San Diego’s Community Needs Assessment
- Knowing what you need to know about needs assessment – Research from the University of Wollongong
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