Criteria for Assessing the Usefulness of Community Health Assessments

A Literature Review

by Sarah Myers, Michael A. Stoto

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RAND Health is developing a web-based tool to determine and enhance the usefulness of community health assessments (CHAs) throughout the United States. CHAs identify and describe community health problems, gaps and strengths in services provided, and interventions to improve the health of the community. The authors performed a literature review to identify factors and criteria for a useful CHA process and then examined individual CHA processes throughout the United States to compile common characteristics for use in the development of their Web-based CHA tool. The authors found wide variation in individual CHA processes, participants, goals, and products. They identified 21 criteria to describe the usefulness of CHAs. CHAs should be consistent in their format for presenting information; include both summary and detailed versions; be well-organized and easy to understand; clearly indicate relationships among related health indicators; include both narrative and graphic presentation of findings; use a structure similar to that of other community planning tools already in use; be available online; and identify data sources used. The CHA document should be a resource to prioritize and plan services, for writing grant applications; and to guide a comprehensive health promotion strategy.

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The research in this report was conducted by RAND Health, a unit of the RAND Corporation. It was conducted under contract with the Public Health Information Group of the Center for Community Health in the New York State Department of Health, with financial support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Assessment Initiative.

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