One of the benefits of being a WeTHRIVE!℠ community is the Community Health Assessment (CHA) conducted by Hamilton County Public Health. What is the CHA and how does it benefit a community?
To find out, we sat down for a conversation with three of our WeTHRIVE! team members who work on CHAs. Let’s meet them!
Tom Boeshart is a senior epidemiologist at HCPH.
Nicole Key is a WeTHRIVE! population health specialist.
Karen Schwamberger is the WeTHRIVE! community outreach contractor.
In Part 1 of this story, we’ll learn the basics of a CHA and how the WeTHRIVE! team gathers information about the community. Part 2 will focus on epidemiological data and how a CHA benefits a community.
Q: What is a Community Health Assessment?
Tom: A Community Health Assessment (CHA) is an extensive look at a whole bunch of health, social, economic, and environmental indicators that paints a picture of the health and wellbeing of a community. Every CHA we do is specific to that community. We use address-level data, which allows us to be more specific than if we just broke things down by ZIP code.
Nicole: Because we’re a government agency, the word assessment makes it seem like we’re here to penalize.
Karen: And that’s not it at all. We are really here to give communities information they may have never seen before, looking at both the positives and the opportunities.
Q: What are the tools and processes used to conduct the CHA?
Karen: We go through the same process for every CHA, which is to complete a Community Asset/Opportunity Audit, a Community Voice Survey, and gathering and analysis of epidemiological data.
Q: What is the Community Asset/Opportunity Audit?
KAREN: The community audit is something that I help complete, as the community outreach contractor, with the population health specialist who is working with that community. We actually drive and walk around the community looking for assets and opportunities that relate to the health, safety, and well-being of the community. And we take photos.
NICOLE: The audit gives us a better feel for the community. Epidemiological data is one thing, but we want to be able to speak to what’s currently going on in the community. And what we find may match the data. For example, if we’re driving around and see little or no sidewalks or crosswalks, and the data shows a high amount of pedestrian injuries, this bolsters our recommendation to improve safety measures within the community.
Q: What kinds of things do you look for in the Audit?
KAREN: Some examples of what we look for are sidewalks and crosswalks; prescription drug drop boxes; and parks and playgrounds. We find out whether the community participates in Prescription Drug Take Back Day or has tobacco-free policies. Is there a grocery store or place where one can get healthy food and fresh produce? We note if the schools are part of the WeTHRIVE! School Initiative and if they have a school travel plan. Is there child care in the community and do providers accept publicly funded vouchers?
NICOLE: We have a document that we go by, which is basically a list of potential assets and opportunities. A community’s assets are things they are doing well. Opportunities are areas that could be improved on. We’re looking for both.
Q: What is the Community Voice Survey?
KAREN: The Community Voice Survey is an important part of the CHA. It’s a survey that asks one open-ended question, which is: ‘In your opinion, what are the most important issues that affect the health, safety, and well- being of your community? Please briefly describe.’ We’re inviting residents to share their voice – to let us know what they see and live with every day.
NICOLE: It’s all anonymous. We do ask for some optional demographics on the survey. Folks don’t have to provide it if they don’t want to. It just helps us see if we’re reaching everyone that’s represented within a community, that we’re not just getting a certain age group or demographic.
KAREN: We put all the survey responses into a document that becomes part of the CHA presentation.
Q: Why do you ask a community’s residents to give their opinion?
KAREN: This is a great way to find out what people see in their own community, because we don’t live there, and may not know. It’s important to get their perspective and consider that with the data and what we find in the Community Audit.
NICOLE: Like I said before, we can recommend something based on what we see, but it doesn’t mean that’s what’s most important to a community. If we see a lack of sidewalks, but we have person after person after person bringing up an issue that isn’t sidewalks, we know that that’s a bigger priority and that’s something we would support the community in addressing. Also, with the survey, we get community buy-in for the CHA. The community has a seat at the table and they can provide feedback, so it’s not just us coming in and saying, here’s what’s going on.
Q: What types of issues do residents usually bring up?
KAREN: A very wide variety. But there are some common themes. Safety concerns and crime; lack of sidewalks or safe walking and biking; cleanliness and litter; mental health and drug abuse. We usually get positive comments about fire and police.
NICOLE: The survey may also capture assets and opportunities that we did not see in our Community Audit.
Q: How do you reach residents?
KAREN: We have the community put a link to the survey on their website. We also reach out to schools, child care providers, churches, and sometimes businesses. If there’s a community event, we might go out and try to talk to people there. And the survey is also promoted by word of mouth through a community’s WeTHRIVE! team and any connections they have.
NICOLE: We also utilize things the community may already have in place – like a newsletter or social media page or even just a bulletin board. We look for any way to increase visibility, because then more people are able to access it.
Tom: Karen does her darndest to canvas the community to get responses. So if you see her walking around your community with papers, she’s trying to get responses. Please respond! (laughter)
Stay tuned for Part 2, when we’ll learn about the epidemiological data that goes into a CHA, as well as how the team pulls everything together to make recommendations that will help WeTHRIVE! communities be healthier and safer.
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