Community Health Assessments

People who live in unhealthy places are more likely to experience poor health outcomes including higher rates of obesity, chronic diseases, infant deaths and low birth weight babies.

The health of a community is complex. It is effected by the socio-demographic markup of its people, environmental risk factors and resources in the community that keep it's people well. The systematic study of health data about a community by a community is called a health assessment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can get you started on how to do a health assessment and plan to improve the health of your community.

What You Can Do

Review your Comprehensive Plan

Cities and towns all have documents that were developed with a broad public participation process that describe the community and set out actions for municipal improvments. The "Comp Plans" are updated every ten years and is a powerful tool to set the stage for healthy policies and practices. Compare your Comprehensive Plan to the recommendations in the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Healthy Communities Plan. Identify where you can strengthen goals, objectives, policies, strategies, and implementation plans in your Comprehensive Plan.

Learn about your Neighbors

  • U.S. Census is a good place to start to find out information about Rhode Island and your municipality.
  • The Rhode Island Department of Education provides detailed education and health information at the statewide and school district levels.
  • Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and the RI Healthcare Matters compile statewide and community data, including demographic, health, and economic data.
  • The CHANGE Tool created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthy Communities Program’s helps you gather information on residents’ perceptions and attitudes about healthy behaviors.

Learn about the Environmental Health of your Community

A community's physical environment, can support healthy behaviors or limit healthy choices. The YMCA Community Health Living Index (CHLI) provides tools to assess the built environment of a community, such as the design of streets and parks or access to farmers' markets. Use walking and biking environment audits to assess your community’s walk- and bike-ability. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s food retail resource will help you identify existing data and more tools to assess the food situation in your community.

Know the Health issues facing the people in your Community

Explore the Health Resources of your Community

Set community health priorities

Once you have worked with residents and other key stakeholders to prioritize the needs and assets of your community, identify strategies and activities to create a healthier environment.

After completing your assessment and exploring existing data, you begin to develop an Action Plan. Your Action Plan should include all the steps necessary to address the action priorities identified through your assessment. Use a work plan template to develop and organize the goals, objectives, action steps, timeframe, and evaluation indicators for your Action Plan.

Create an Evaluation Plan

Look at your plan and identify who else’s support you may need and what barriers may stand in your community's way.

Continuously evaluating your efforts will help you monitor progress, stay on track, identify problems early, and give you the data you need to build a case for support and funding. Evaluation will also help you document your project path so you can replicate or modify your process when needed. Evaluation findings can be used to make decisions about program implementation, to improve program effectiveness, and to share best practices and lessons learned with other communities.

  • Use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health to develop an evaluation plan.
  • Create a clear goal and measurable objectives. You can organize your objectives and evaluation questions by using an evaluation matrix.
  • Refer to the CDC State Asthma Program Evaluation Guide - Learning and Growing through Evaluation. The information found in this guide will provide guidance on how to narrow down the programmatic areas that you will focus on for an evaluation.
  • Review your evaluation results periodically, share the results with your stakeholders for feedback, and adjust your work as needed. An evaluation will determine “what works”.