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TIP: Group Indicators into Health Needs for Better Health Assessments

Updated: Oct 8, 2018

So, you’re doing a community health needs assessment (CHNA), and you have a list of data indicators and sources you want to use -- how do you aggregate results into one comprehensible document? If you’ve done a health assessment before, you’re likely familiar with the challenge: it’s difficult to access data from various sources describing a specific population, and even if you are able to access local data, it’s hard to know what the information means. A long list of data indicators describing your community isn’t actionable; it doesn’t necessarily shed light on what you should actually do to improve community health.


Health needs provide explanatory context.

Grouping indicators into health needs as part of your CHNA is more helpful than viewing them in a long list. Whereas data indicators are specific statistics pertaining to a defined population (e.g. number of heart-disease hospitalizations), health needs (e.g. Healthy Eating/Active Living (HEAL)) are made up of a group of relevant indicators that, together, provide explanatory context about a community. Grouping indicators into health needs helps users know where to focus community health improvement efforts and can prompt users to identify areas where they may have leverage to make change.


For example, even if heart-disease hospitalizations aren’t higher-than-average in your community, risk factors for heart disease such as unhealthy eating and physical inactivity may be worse than state averages. In that case, comparing health needs would show the HEAL health need as lower than average, cueing you to build on existing local momentum for a policy agenda to help residents eat healthfully and move more.


Incorporating more indicators into your assessment is not necessarily better.

It’s more important to use health needs tailored to your assessment and reporting goals. Viewing CHNA results by health needs in addition to individual indicators helps answer the following questions:

  • Who lives in the community?

  • Where are the areas of greatest need within a target area?

  • What are the major health issues and opportunities a community faces?

  • What are the contributing factors of health issues identified?

Gone are the days of sifting through data sources and using complicated Excel spreadsheets to create long lists of indicators for CHNA reporting. Our data solutions automate health-needs grouping to create actionable assessment reports and allow you to spend more time improving community health.