Community Health Assessment Competencies

Why Develop Competencies?

A key goal of Washington State's Assessment in Action (AIA) project was to improve the community health assessment (CHA) capacity and skills of local health jurisdiction staff. To achieve this goal, the AIA work plan called for the development of learning resources to increase CHA knowledge and skills, including a web-based orientation to CHA, a CHA training plan, and a CHA peer mentoring program. In order to develop these learning resources, a critical question had to be answered: what exactly are we training CHA staff to do? Epidemiology is a core element of CHA practice, but the knowledge and skills needed to do CHA are broader.

How Were the Competencies Developed?

We began the process by reviewing existing competency sets. A draft set of competencies related to CHA work was then created based on competency lists from the Council on Linkages Core Competencies,1 the Informatics Competencies for Public Health Professionals,2 and the Public Health Epidemiology Competency Set.3

These draft competencies were taken to the three Regional Assessment Meetings held in May 2004. At the meetings, local health CHA staff were given the opportunity modify, add, and delete competencies from the list. As a follow-up to each meeting, participants were given the opportunity to again review the amended competency list and score those they felt were most important for assessment staff to possess. Results from the meetings were analyzed and compiled into a final set of CHA Competencies. Use footnotes below to read more about competency lists.

How Will the CHA Competencies Be Used?

The CHA competencies are a foundation for the workforce development-related AIA projects. Within the CHA Orientation, new CHA staff will conduct a self-assessment of their current performance relative to the competencies and then access competency-specific learning resources in areas where they want to improve performance.

Participants of the CHA peer mentoring program will identify specific competencies they wish to address through the mentoring process. Competencies will also be used to assess CHA training needs among local health staff and to organize training offerings. Finally, the competencies will be used to evaluate whether an increase in CHA knowledge, skills and abilities occurs through participation in the orientation, peer mentoring program, and CHA trainings.

Community Health Assessment Competencies for Washington State Public Health Staff

Competency 1: Understand the role of assessment in public health.
  • Describe population-based public health (Core Functions, 10 Essential Public Health Services), including how assessment is used in public health to guide planning and policy development.
  • Describe the local and state roles for assessment in meeting the Standards for Public Health in Washington State.
  • Describe how assessment is used in your local health jurisdiction and community.
Competency 2: Engage, support and provide assistance on assessment and evaluation activities.
  • Provide technical assistance and consultation to public health staff and community partners on assessment and evaluation practice.
  • Develop awareness within the community of available public health data and assessment/evaluation resources and tools.
  • Educate staff and community partners on how to use and interpret data.
Competency 3: Work effectively with diverse populations and communities on assessment and evaluation activities.
  • Interact sensitively, effectively, and professionally with people from diverse cultural, socioeconomic, educational, racial, ethnic, age, gender, sexual orientation, faith community and professional backgrounds.
  • Identify and involve key staff and community stakeholders invested in specific and general community health assessment issues.
  • Ensure assessment and evaluation approaches incorporate balanced perspectives from diverse populations.
  • Listen to and respect diverse opinions and perspectives of individuals and groups on community health and evaluation issues.
Competency 4: Design community health assessments and evaluations using basic research methods.
  • Define a public health problem and identify relevant data and information sources.
  • Determine appropriate quantitative and qualitative methodology.
  • Design community health assessments to understand the health status of populations, health risk factors, and factors influencing the use of health services.
  • Design program evaluations to measure outcomes, effectiveness, and quality.
  • Work with stakeholders (e.g., policy makers, community partners, staff) in the design and development of assessments and evaluations to ensure the findings are relevant and useful.
  • Consider the ethical issues in the planning and design of community health assessments and evaluations.
Competency 5: Collect, obtain, abstract, analyze, and interpret data.
  • Conduct assessments and evaluations using a variety of methodology (e.g., compiling secondary data, gathering primary data, focus groups, key informant interviews).
  • Utilize information technology applications to gather, access and analyze local, state and national data.
  • Develop and implement collection tools (e.g., surveys) and surveillance systems to gather data needed to complete assessments and evaluations.
  • Compile data and conduct analysis using appropriate methods.
  • Evaluate the quality and comparability of data.
  • Make appropriate inferences from quantitative and qualitative data to analyze a public health problem.
  • Apply ethical principles to the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of data and information.
Competency 6: Organize, prepare, display, and present data.
  • Prepare and format data appropriately for the intended audience and as required by the defined community.
  • Present accurate demographic, statistical, programmatic, and scientific information effectively.
  • Use the news media, advanced technology, public forums and community networks to communicate assessment and evaluation findings.
Competency 7: Obtain and evaluate published information to inform public health decisions.
  • Utilize on-line sources and the scientific literature to identify and retrieve information on current evidence-based public health practice.
  • Evaluate the strengths and limitations of scientific research and other published information.
  • Apply current public health scientific knowledge to assessment and evaluation work.
Competency 8: Provide and incorporate assessment and evaluation findings into public policy decisions.
  • Disseminate data and information from multiple sources to create understanding of a public health issue or to evaluate a program for decision-making.
  • Translate public health data and epidemiological information for policy makers, government agencies, community-based organizations, staff, and others to use in planning and policy initiatives.
  • Advocate and provide leadership to public health staff, policy makers and community partners on use of assessment and evaluation data to guide planning and policy development.
Competency 9: Engage in on-going professional knowledge and skill development.
  • Seek out learning opportunities, through traditional and distance-learning modalities, to support knowledge and skill development on assessment and evaluation practice.
  • Actively seek information, consultation, peer review and technical assistance to improve your practice/work.


1COL Core Competencies.
Developed by: The Council on Linkages between Academia and Public Health Practice.
2Informatics Competencies for Public Health Professionals.
Developed by: Public Health Informatics Competencies Working Group.
3Public Health Epidemiology Competency Set.
Developed by: Northwest Center for Public Health Practice.