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Is Community Health Assessment Worthwhile?

Friedman, Daniel J. PhD; Parrish, Roy Gibson MD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: January-February 2009 - Volume 15 - Issue 1 - p 3–9
doi: 10.1097/01.PHH.0000342943.41080.ef

This article presents a brief intellectual history of assessment since the publication of The Future of Public Health, examines unanswered questions about assessment, and proposes a public health services and systems research agenda for assessment.

Daniel J. Friedman, PhD, is an independent consultant providing population and public health information services in the United States and Canada. From 1986 to 2003, Dr Friedman served as Assistant Commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in the Bureau of Statistics, Research, and Evaluation. He also served as a member of the national health information policy advisory board for the US Secretary of Health and Information Services from 1997 to 2002.

Roy Gibson Parrish, MD, is a consultant in population health information systems and an adjunct associate professor of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. From 1982 to 2002, he worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in environmental health, public health surveillance, and improving national and state health information systems. Since retiring from the CDC, he has worked on various population health information–related projects.

Corresponding Author: Daniel J. Friedman, PhD, Population and Public Health Information Services, 12 Gorham Ave, Brookline, MA 02445.

Disclaimer: The authors received funding to write this article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authors thank Dr Deborah Klein Walker for her careful and insightful reading and comments on an earlier draft of this article.

A CHA is a process by which community members gain an understanding of the health, concerns, and healthcare systems of the community by identifying, collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information on community assets, strengths, resources, and needs. A CHA usually culminates in a report or a presentation that includes information about the health of the community as it is today, as well as the community's capacity to improve the lives of residents. A CHA can provide the basis for discussion and action.23

Community health assessment is the work of collecting, analyzing, and using data to educate and mobilize communities, develop priorities, garner resources, and plan actions to improve public health.24

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.