Step 5: Prioritize Community Health Issues
Hospitals and community stakeholders go through a process to distinguish the most pressing community health needs based on the data collected. The identified priority health needs will be addressed through the implementation strategies.
Identify criteria for prioritization
Hospitals are at their discretion to develop prioritization criteria and processes. A set of criteria should be determined to guide the prioritization process. Typically, three to six priorities are selected, based on:
- Magnitude of the problem
- Severity of the problem
- Need among vulnerable populations
- Community’s capacity and willingness to act on the issue
- Ability to have a measurable impact on the issue
- Availability of hospital and community resources
- Existing interventions focused on the issue
- Whether the issue is a root cause of other problems
- Trending health concerns in the community
Additional prioritization criteria can include:
- The importance of each problem to community members
- Evidence that an intervention can change the problem
- Alignment with an organization’s existing priorities
- Hospital’s ability to contribute finances and resources to address the health concern
- Potential challenges or barriers to addressing the need
- The opportunity to intervene at the prevention level
Select community health priorities
Priorities can be selected as part of an established process informed by contributing partners, including community stakeholders, health departments, social service agencies, policy makers and hospital leadership. Action steps to be considered are:
- Select a prioritization committee – Members can be from hospitals, community stakeholder organizations and other organizations/institutions with specialized knowledge or constituents.
- Discuss the data – Present the qualitative and quantitative data to the prioritization committee. Make sure that the data are presented in a format that is accessible for the individuals on the committee. Foster an environment for open dialogue to discuss the identified health needs thoroughly.
- Review community assets – Reflect back on your asset map to identify what resources exist in your community to address the need. Take stock of what resources (staffing, in-kind, financial, etc.) in your hospital could potentially be leveraged to address that need.
- Select priorities – Decide which approach you want to use to determine priority needs.
|Multi-voting technique||Decide on priorities by agreeing or disagreeing in group discussions and continuing process/rounds until a final list is developed.|
|Strategy lists||Determine if the health needs are of “high or low importance” by placing an emphasis on problems whose solutions have maximum impact, with the possibility of limited resources.|
|Nominal group technique||Rate health problems from 1 to 10 through group discussion.|
|Hanlon method||List those health needs viewed as priorities based on baseline data, numeric values and feasibility factors.|
|Prioritization matrix||Weigh and rank multiple criteria for prioritization with numeric values to determine health needs with high importance.|
- Build consensus around priority needs – If you select priorities that vary from community recommendations, justify the reasons for making those choices. Consider the consequences of not addressing an issue and how that can affect the community’s well-being in the future. In the case of overlapping health needs, consider consolidating into a single priority.
- Validate selected priorities – Conduct discussion groups with members of your hospital’s steering committee and community members for additional input. Make sure the selected priority needs align with hospital and community sentiment.
- Present priorities to senior leadership and the hospital’s board of trustees for approval – Align your hospital’s population health management strategy with the community health priorities.
Describe which needs were not prioritized
It may not be possible to address all community health needs at once. If there are significant needs that are not prioritized or will not be addressed, you should be able to describe what the needs are and why you have chosen not to address them.