Puzzled About How the Pieces Go Together To Create a Healthy Community?
Nonprofit hospitals, United Ways, community foundations and public health departments are just a few of the groups looking at what appears to be a 10,000-piece puzzle that must be solved before the true picture of a healthy community emerges. Many groups start with the straight-edge pieces – what everyone thinks are the obvious issues — but how do you know that’s the real place to start?
The answer, of course, is good data that’s community-specific. The kind of data gained through a Community Health Needs Assessment. The kind of data that has enough depth to suggest workable strategies and also which groups can implement those strategies.
We often hear people say, “My community is different.” Indeed, every community IS different. Let’s take a look at a few of the aspects that affect a community’s health in ways that may be different from other communities:
- Different cultures – Are faith-based organizations trusted sources of health information? Is education valued? Is there a culture of exercise or do people typically drive, rather than walk or ride bicycles?
- Different community organizations – Which organizations are well-managed and financially strong? Which are providing evidence-based programs? Which can provide the leadership for a community-wide initiative?
- Different barriers to healthy behaviors – Are there safe places to walk and exercise? Is fresh food readily available and affordable?
- Differing access to healthcare – Are neighborhood clinics located in low-income neighborhoods? Are certain groups reluctant to visit healthcare providers? Is transportation an issue?
Many of the strategies for improving community health involve local leaders working together to make a difference. In any given community, this may be hospital leaders, public health officials, the United Way, community foundation boards, city officials, nonprofit organizations and other interested groups. There are many organizations and individuals in every community that have a sincere interest in seeing tangible improvements in the place they love and serve.
A high quality Community Health Needs Assessment will certainly highlight the issues a community should start to address, but it will also provide the evidence that points to workable strategies and help identify the groups that can carry out the work.
All these moving parts may seem like that 10,000-piece puzzle. But the puzzle’s picture begins to emerge with information from your Community Health Needs Assessment.
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.