Community health assessment (CHA) should be part of an ongoing broader community health improvement process. A community health improvement process uses CHA data to identify priority issues, develop and implement strategies for action, and establish accountability to ensure measurable health improvement, which are often outlined in the form of a community health improvement plan (CHIP). A community health improvement process looks outside of the performance of an individual organization serving a specific segment of a community to the way in which the activities of many organizations contribute to community health improvement*.
* Durch J.S., Bailey L.A., & Stoto M.A. (1997). Improving Health in the Community: A Role for Performance Monitoring. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
The Public Health Accreditation Board's (PHAB's) national, voluntary, public health department accreditation program, requires a current (completed within the last 5 years) CHA and CHIP as two of the three prerequisites for accreditation of state and local public health agencies.
Charitable hospitals also are required by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to conduct community health needs assessments. Public Law 111–148 (PDF)
The Kansas Partnership for Improving Community Health created a 'crosswalk' chart showing features recommended for community health assessments and improvement plans performed by local health departments and 501(c)(3) hospitals. Click to view or print the Crosswalk Table (PDF)
CHA and CHIP in Washington State
Washington State has a decentralized governmental public health system characterized by local control and partnerships. Along with the state Department of Health, the network includes 35 local health jurisdictions (LHJs) that serve the 39 counties, the state Board of Health, tribal governments and other partners. Local health jurisdictions are in the process of conducting and implementing community health assessment and improvement plans.
During the 2012 session, the Washington state legislature passed ESHB 2341 that requires nonprofit hospitals to make community health needs assessments and community benefits implementation strategies widely available to the public. RCW 70.41.470
Hospitals in Washington state are also in the process of conducting community health needs assessments and plan.