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Data Synthesis in Community Health Assessment: Practical Examples From the Field

Erwin, Paul Campbell MD, DrPH, FACPM; Knight, Margaret PhD, MS, MPH, RHIT; Graham, Jennifer BA; Kalos, Alan V. MEd; Kent, Louise A. MBA, ASQ CQIA; Glenn, Michael EdD; Rayman, Rebecca J. BSN; Read, Erin MA; Welch, Stephanie MS-MPH, RD, LDN

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31828000f7
Original Articles

State and local health departments (LHDs) are increasingly conducting community health assessments, using models such as Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. Within the peer-reviewed literature, relevant Web sites, and textbooks on health planning, there is limited practical guidance for bridging data collection and prioritization. The purpose of this article was to provide examples of how LHDs have bridged these steps through “data synthesis.” We provide examples from 3 LHDs that have extensive experience with the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships model. The LHDs provide a detailed synopsis of data synthesis activities, including the setting, participants, processes, and outcomes. Commonalities between the LHDs' processes emerged, including daylong (or more) retreats, multiple nominal group-like techniques, and iterative approaches to reduce the number of strategic issues. These processes provide examples of data synthesis and are relevant to current practice, given the national voluntary accreditation process and the new nonprofit hospital requirements to conduct community health assessments.

In Brief

This article describes how local health departments (LHDs) bridge steps through data synthesis when conducting community health assessments (CHAs). It provides examples from 3 LHDs that have extensive experience with the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships model. The processes for data synthesis can also be applied to other CHA models.

Author Information

Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Drs Erwin and Knight and Ms Graham); Northern Kentucky Health Department, Edgewood (Mr Kalos and Ms Kent); mglenn.odx, Cincinnati, Ohio (Dr Glenn); East Central District Health Department, Columbus, Nebraska (Ms Rayman); and Knox County Health Department, Knoxville, Tennessee (Mss Read and Welch).

Correspondence: Paul Campbell Erwin, MD, DrPH, FACPM, Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee, 1914 Andy Holt Ave, Knoxville, TN 37996 (

The authors acknowledge Lauren Shirey and Reena Chudgar, both from the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO), who through their work leading the Community Health Assessment Workgroup for NACCHO provided the impetus for this article.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.