Step 1: Reflect and Strategize
Community health improvement is an ongoing process. Before beginning a new assessment cycle, reflect on your previous community health assessment (CHA) to identify what elements worked well, areas for process improvement and whether your implementation strategies had their desired impact.
Reflect on the previous assessment
Reassemble your CHA team to think through the previous CHA process. Strategic questions to consider include:
- What elements of your assessment worked well?
- What elements would you like to do differently this cycle?
- Did your implementation strategies achieve their intended impact? Why or why not?
- How successful were your community engagement efforts in the last cycle? Were you able to keep community members engaged throughout the assessment?
- How involved was the community in developing the implementation strategies?
- Are there additional stakeholder organizations with whom you could partner?
Get feedback on the previous assessment
Reporting back to external stakeholders can flow naturally into collaboratively planning the next CHA. Communication should include:
- Sharing CHA findings and progress on health improvement
- Requesting feedback on the CHA process and findings
- Providing information on the next steps to be taken by the hospital
- Providing information on programs currently provided by the hospital to address needs identified in the CHA
- Sharing outcomes from current programs and requesting feedback on those programs
Gather feedback from external and internal stakeholders from across the hospital or health care system to get their impressions of the previous CHA process.
Review the data sources
A thorough review of how data were collected and used in previous CHAs can include the following considerations:
- Quantitative data: What sources were used in previous years? Did these sources provide new insights or confirm previous findings? Did the resources address/reflect the needs of specific communities or broader regional areas? Are there new or different data sources available?
- Qualitative data: What stakeholders were engaged in data collection? During which steps of the process were they engaged? Did these stakeholders provide new information or confirm previous findings? Were any groups inadvertently excluded? Were participants representative of the community served?
- Data analysis: How were trends, comparisons and other methods used to identify significant health needs and their possible causes? What trends or changes can you detect in the data as a result of the previous CHA process?
Establish the assessment infrastructure
Building on existing infrastructures can help ensure that the internal resources and supports are in place to set the stage for a successful CHA process. A strong CHA foundation generally includes these key components:
- Buy-in from key organizational leaders
- Financial support
- An active and committed assessment advisory committee
- A framework that includes preliminary agreement about purpose, scope and time frame
Obtain leadership support
CHA developers should engage hospital leaders at the initiation of the assessment and communicate with them regularly throughout the process. Hospital board members or trustees can be strong supporters and may be able to leverage their organizations’ internal resources to support the CHA process.
Organizational leaders and trustees can:
- Lend their names to increase the credibility of the project
- Commit resources, including funding and staff support
- Attract potential assessment partners or external funding sources
- Help overcome any roadblocks that emerge along the way
- Champion the project among policy-makers and elected officials
Build the staff team
An appropriately staffed team keeps the CHA process in motion. This team should include individuals from any relevant administrative departments as well as front-line staff who are experienced in community services and/or who have significant ties to community groups.
The internal staff team should provide:
- Project oversight and operational management (e.g., monitoring timelines and budgets, contracting with consultants, managing staff)
- Data collection and analysis management
- Writing reports and other communications support
- Logistical and administrative support (e.g., sending out meeting notices, securing meeting sites)
Identify and obtain resources
The size of the budget and the nature of financial and in-kind resources will vary with the scope of each assessment. Construct a budget and develop a plan for securing needed resources.
Plan for the following resource needs:
- Staff time (existing staff or hired consultants)
- Assessment design (e.g., scope, objectives)
- Data collection and analysis
- Facilitation of collaboration, planning and priority-setting exercises
- Data visualization technology
- Report writing, production and dissemination
- Operational expenses, including meeting supplies and communications costs
If your assessment takes place by way of a community collaborative, look to your assessment advisory committee to contribute to funding and in-kind support. These stakeholders have an interest in the assessment results—to fulfill organizational or grant requirements or to inform their own organizations’ planning — and may be willing to support the process.