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Community Health Assessment During COVID-19

Updated: Apr 4

Community assessment is important, even and especially now during a pandemic and social justice awakening.

Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) is a critical component of public health and well-being.

CHNAs are part strategic plan and part grounding rod, and provide a systematic process for determining health needs in a particular community or population and spurring community change. Even if your organization doesn’t conduct a formal CHNA, the general process—examining data and identifying community needs and assets in order to prioritize action to improve your community—is used by many making strategic, programmatic, and funding decisions. While for public health organizations and agencies, immediate priorities have changed as we face and attempt to mitigate effects of COVID-19, the reality is that CHNA isn’t going anywhere. The need for this work continues, even during a pandemic, and especially as long-standing systemic racism and inequity have been painted in such stark relief.

Public health professionals are strained, making regular assessment work difficult.

Today public health professionals are ever more stretched as they provide for acute community needs during COVID-19 response, making it difficult to find time, staff capacity, and resources to carry community assessment work forward. With so much going on, it can be tempting to do whatever you can to “check off the CHNA box”—to continue doing CHNA the way you always have, fulfill the minimum requirements, and return to your “on-the-ground” work. We understand that and aim to support public health professionals to leverage community assessment work, yes—to meet requirements, but also to reimagine CHNA to acknowledge that things are different today than they’ve been and the assessment itself can be the first step in lasting community transformation. Our team has spoken with many folks from local public health agencies and organizations, and the consistent question we’ve received is:

“How do we incorporate the implications of COVID-19, the resulting economic crisis, and the current social justice awakening into our CHNA work?”

IP3 can support you in leveraging this pivotal moment to reimagine CHNA by acknowledging that things are different today, and that our approach must change, too.

Allow IP3 to help shoulder the burden through equipping you to conduct a community assessment and develop an action plan that aligns with, and expands upon, your ongoing COVID-19 response. We’ll help you answer the following questions:

1. What is the state of our community? Examine local-level secondary data organized by the holistic Vital Conditions for Well-Being framework.

2. Are we collectively thriving or suffering? Leverage support tools to administer the well-being survey, which measures thriving and suffering in your community, and incorporate other primary data through use of our mini rapid community assessment.

3. Are all people thriving? Examine race and ethnicity breakouts to demonstrate where long-standing inequities have negatively impacted minority populations in your community, and learn how to focus efforts.

4. What issues are of greatest concern to our community? Community engagement should be a cornerstone of CHNA. Prioritize community engagement through use of dialogue guides and facilitated community conversations to provide critical qualitative insight from those with lived experience (virtual available).

5. What should we make and do together to create lasting change? Leverage the recently-released Springboard and its identified pivotal moves (more on the Springboard below) to develop a holistic action plan that still addresses immediate community needs.

6. How do we get started? Examine your community’s data and dive into the library of actionable resources on Community Commons tied to Springboard pivotal moves--both are organized by the Vital Conditions framework, making it easy to identify tangible next steps.

What is the Springboard?

Thriving Together: A Springboard for Equitable Recovery & Resilience in Communities Across America is a joint project of the CDC Foundation and Well Being Trust, coordinated with Community Initiatives and ReThink Health. Over eight weeks (May through June 2020), more than 100 people and organizations diverted their daily work to help craft the Springboard. Throughout its development, a diverse set of resources, tools, stories, perspectives, policies, and guides were identified as useful in moving towards the goal of equitable well-being. This curated content is organized by the Vital Conditions framework and catalogued as a library on Community Commons to equip America’s communities around a single, unifying, measurable expectation: All people and places thriving—no exceptions.

Although much has changed in recent months, the nature of community assessment is acknowledgement of a need for change, and looking back in order to understand how we got here and where we want to go. At the end of the day, the same populations who have traditionally suffered in the U.S. are suffering today, whether from disproportionate cases of COVID-19, or from lack of humane housing due to historical redlining policies. There is a national legacy of inequity that cannot be underscored enough when working to advance community well-being. With IP3’s support, you can examine coronavirus cases overlaid with community conditions to demonstrate where we need to change and how we can act today. Reach out to schedule an introductory call with our team.


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