Rebuilding the Community Health Tool

Submitted on Mon, 10/11/2021 - 10:12

Communities need timely data to understand the health of their citizens and to plan improvements. In the last five years, communities lost the heath data tools critical to a healthy community.  In an article published in the American Journal of Public Health, Rebuilding a US Federal Data Strategy After the End of the “Community Health Status Indicators,” authors argue for the need for not just a replacement, but for an improved, next-generation Community Health Status Indicators (CHSI) tool, which supplied communities with standardized, local health data,and the ability to compare their communities to similar ones.  

The CHSI project, launched in 2000, was a first of its kind, producing data from several federal resources in easy-to-understand formats.  After surviving a transition from the Health Resources and Services Administration to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was discontinued in 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical role that federal leadership needs to play in making data tools and resources available for federal, state, and local decision-making, write the authors of the article.  The redesign of CHSI after being transferred to CDC included input from a variety of user-groups and experts, drastically improving the usefulness of CHSI for population health monitoring and planning. It included 19 economic and social determinants of health variables, including population size, high school graduation rates, single parent households, housing stress, unemployment, etc.

The loss of CHSI data and reports since 2017 made it hard to conduct community health assessments, according to the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS). Since CHSI’s demise other health indicator projects have launched but were not designed with community leaders and do not fill the gap left by the loss of CHSI.  These assessments are required by all non-profit hospitals, public health departments seeking accreditation, and Federally Qualified Health Centers. Communities, counties, states, and federal agencies rely on these assessments to understand need, to develop policy, and to assess outcomes. Hearings conducted by NCVHS included the American Public Health Association (APHA) which said that loss of CHSI was important because, public health departments rely on current data toimplement their programs and respond to emerging community concerns.” Public health practitioners used the data to plan health programs, identify priorities for action, and for collaborations with other providers in the health system. The Community Hospital Corporation said, “[CHSI] was one of our most useful data visualizations for our Community Health Needs Assessments.” 

The Federal Data Strategy recently finalized a 2020 Action Plan, which authors argue could serve as an opportunity to support community health data.  They push for the support of the public health community, state, and territorial health officers to advocate for this as the next priority of the Federal Data Strategy.  Dr. Phillips, lead author, said, “In 2017 we blinded communities across the US in their capacity to assess and address health by shutting down CHSI and other federal health data resources. This decision now limits our national capacity to understand how the pandemic affected local communities. The Federal Data Strategy and recent Executive Orders geared to improve public health data should make community health data needs a priority. Shortly after our hearings, the NCVHS Population Health subcommittee was disbanded, so our federal health agencies have also lost an important advisor on repairing this breach of community support.”

Read the full article here: Rebuilding a US Federal Data Strategy After the End of the “Community Health Status Indicators,”

For more information or to request an interview with authors, please email [email protected].