Community Health Assessments

Community Health Assessments

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A community health assessment or a community
health needs assessment is really important as a tool to begin to improve your community’s
health and well-being. You really need to take a good look at various factors that affect
health and well-being — not just the health outcomes, but the social services in your
community, the transportation, the safety of the community, food access and there’s
various ways to get that information. Both from the health care system, from the transportation
office, from the regional planning office as well as from the Census Bureau. Then really
important is to talk to the people in the community and find out what is important to
them. The most important part about truly improving
the health of your community is working with the people in the community. Both the ones
who live and work and play in the community, and other organizations. The hardest part
about this is the working together because of the fact that the more people you work
with, the more complicated and challenging it is, and yet the biggest, longest-lasting
impact you’ll have. You know, there’s that old African proverb, “If you want to go fast,
go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” But going together takes a longer time and
that’s really difficult but really, really vital for a long lasting impact on the health
of your community. We have an infographic that talks about investing
in your community, four considerations to improve health and well being for all. There
are four main points. First one is “what,” know what impacts health. “Where,” where to
focus to have the greatest impact on health in your community. “Who,” to collaborate with
lots of different partners in your community. And “how” to have a balanced portfolio of
interventions for greatest impact. Know what impacts health. Too often people
think of health as just about health care. Health care is not enough to impact health.
There are other factors that we can affect that’ll improve health. There’s socio-economic
factors, there’s the physical environment, and there’s health behaviors. Health care
alone actually has a very small impact on health. Some would say no more than 10 to
20% of the impact on health. As far as where to focus to have a great impact
on health, your zip code can be more important than your genetic code. Where you live affects
your health. The reason we emphasize “where” is that there will be these places…there
will be parts of your community where there are folks who have very little to no access
to healthy food, difficulty with transportation, a lack of safety in their community. If we
can address those kinds of factors, we can have a greater impact, a longer lasting impact
on the health of the community, and also affect health equity. Who to work with in the community? I think
we’re trying to make the point that there are many, many partners out there. This country
spends a lot of money on health care and on balance, many fewer dollars on social services,
and yet these social determinants, these other factors impact health. There are a lot of
partners out there who recognize the importance of their role in affecting health, and are
ready to collaborate with us in public health and health care. For example, there are YMCAs
and United Ways, and community health centers. There’s community development agencies. There
are businesses who recognize the impact of health on their economic well-being. They’re
ready to partner with public health and health care. So we really want to emphasize the who,
who to work with, is very, very great. The opportunity is enormous. The fourth bullet is the “how,” and we say
you need to use a balanced portfolio of interventions to have the greatest impact. Balanced or diversified
like what you would do with your own funding if you have enough, where you wouldn’t put
all of your money in one basket. You might invest in different stocks or different approaches
to have the longest, best impact on your portfolio funds. We need a portfolio of different interventions,
multi-pronged to have impact on health. For example, we have this enormous obesity epidemic
and often times clinicians are advising their patients or their patient’s families to eat
healthier, to be more active. That’s what we often do in the clinical arena. Hopefully
we also connect them to nutritionists so that they understand what is healthy food and how
to access it. But the challenge is that it’s not enough to approach a complex problem like
obesity just in the clinical arena. We have to help them understand what motivates them.
What kinds of health behaviors they can engage in, in terms of healthy food, physical activity.
But then the challenge is if we say, “Go off and eat healthy food, and be active,” what
if they live in a neighborhood where they’re afraid to go out at night, or they’re afraid
to go out in the streets, or there aren’t any places to exercise because the traffic
patterns are such that it’s dangerous for the kids? We need to work on their housing
and the zoning so that they have a situation where they can get out and exercise. Also,
we know that the education has an important impact on health. So if we even think about
educational programs, perhaps programs for pre-school. We may have a big impact on their
health outcomes. The Practical Playbook is all about working
together. It’s really so important. We are not going to solve the health problems in
the United States by working alone or in silos. We have to work together. That’s the purpose
of the Practical Playbook, is to really support us – primary care, public health and other
partners – in working together. People think that it’s about science and about medicine,
but really, and I’m a scientist, it’s about the fuzzier stuff of working together. The
Practical Playbook addresses those issues head on. It talks about the importance of
collaboration. It brings up those challenging issues that we finally try to work with people
from other disciplines which are so, so important. There’s stories about how people have worked
together and achieved success. Working together can be hard. We all work and come from our
own frameworks, and we don’t always understand the other players or partners. One of the
things the Practical Playbook has is perspectives from public health, perspectives from primary
care, so that we can understand each other and be more effective in working together.

One comment

  1. Hi there,

    We really liked your video and wanted to know if you would allow us to download and provide this to our students that are remote and do not have access to Internet. It would not be reproduced and sold. It would only be used by our foundation to better the learning experience of our people.
    Please let me know if it is possible to get a copy of this video.

    I work for Saint Elizabeth Foundation, a registered national charity, we provide virtual education at no cost the health care providers in the first nations communities.

    One of our core challenge is reaching first nation communities that have intermittent, low or no internet access. We do have an offline-capable learning management solution platform. However, some of the courses refer to youtube videos. To maximize impact we would like to make these videos accessible in an offline environment.

    Thank you,

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