Background: COMPASS (Comprehensive Assessment, Strategic Success) is the Florida Department of Health's community health assessment and health improvement planning initiative. Since 2002, COMPASS built state and county health department infrastructure to support a comprehensive, systematic, and integrated approach to community health assessment and planning.
Methods: To assess the capacity of Florida's 67 county health departments (CHDs) to conduct community health assessment and planning and to identify training and technical assistance needs, COMPASS surveyed the CHDs using a Web-based instrument annually from 2004 through 2008.
Findings: Response rate to the survey was 100 percent annually. In 2007, 96 percent of CHDs reported conducting assessment and planning within the past 3 years; 74 percent used the MAPP (Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships) framework. Progress was greater for the organizational and assessment phases of the MAPP-based work; only 10 CHDs had identified strategic priorities in 2007, and even fewer had implemented strategies for improving health. In 2007, the most frequently requested types of training were measuring success, developing goals and action plans, and using qualitative data; technical assistance was most frequently requested for program evaluation and writing community health status reports.
Conclusions: Florida's CHDs have increased their capacity to conduct community health assessment and planning. Questions remain about sustaining these gains with limited resources.