Let’s Begin at the Beginning …
We’re going to start at the start of things. If you are considering a strategic process for a Community Health Needs Assessment, there has to be a place to begin the journey. And it’s not where you think. No, it’s not with the statistician. Not the focus group. Not the committee meeting. It’s earlier than that.
The beginning of the journey is “buy-in.” Literally and figuratively. The decision makers must realize, recognize and agree on the value of this idea. This isn’t just a box to check on an IRS form: this must be strategic and transformational. This assessment process absolutely must get to the heart of the community’s needs. No foolin’, no sugar-coating, no hurt feelings. Politics must take a break.
Now, anyone reading that last sentence who is a leader of an organization for longer than 10 minutes will say: WRONG! You can’t ignore politics and the context of healthcare organizations in our town/city/community. The “other” hospital is doing “X” and we just started services with “Y” to compete. Or: the mayor started this “movement” and the city is behind her—we have to go along. You know all of the examples…people have already started on something and we can’t look too closely and change directions to waste money.
The beginning, the starting conversation, the headwaters of this journey have to be data-driven. Everyone has to agree that priorities must be defined by the trends assessed and that resources must be given to those priorities. The buy-in argument is simple: priorities must be addressed. They can be “in addition to” the existing efforts, projects, programs and ideas that are already being pursued. These priorities can be added, but everyone must agree that they can’t be ignored.
There will be time (we’ll discuss at a later date) for the next steps. But do not ignore the importance of the process and the champions it will take to make it happen. Your first mission, should you chose to accept it, is to cultivate and grow your own heroes. An example would be my first political foray into community health assessments. A CHNA had not been performed in eight years in my jurisdiction as a health officer, and I knew it needed to happen.
So, what did I do?
• I met with community leaders to describe what had been done in the past
• Talked about the “needs” that others were discussing across town, yet no one had focused efforts
• Advocated and proposed a budget item (one year in advance)
• Presented a proposal with action items for a contract and contractor
• Managed the process with transparency and community input
• Provided the political boards and organizations with opportunities to publicly discuss the process and take ownership for the leadership and foresight
• Facilitated follow-up meetings
• Formalized plans for subsequent CHNAs
Sounds simple, right? We’ve all heard about strategic decisions and the importance of champion development. Few organizations, however, take the time to get consensus and energy at the beginning. And as the process moves forward, you’ll be glad you put in the hard work to grow these local heroes.
So, grab a cape and a mask and sell the idea. You’ll need help to save the world.
If you are interested in discussing how a Community Health Needs Assessment and related planning activities can help your organization make a greater impact, please contact Mary Coyne at (806) 670-7440 or Mary@AscentHealthConsulting.com.