As a community benefit professional or community health planner operating in the middle of a pandemic, you may be tossing and turning at night thinking about the challenges you and your hospital are facing as you try to address community needs during this unprecedented health crisis.
One thing is clear: COVID-19 has exacerbated disparities in both health and social determinants of health across the country.
While your clinician colleagues are focused on providing the best care for those within the walls of the hospital, you’re focused on the impact of COVID-19 in your community, understanding how needs may have changed and how you can meet those needs.
Some questions or areas of concern you may be grappling with:
- Are the data findings in your current community health needs assessment (CHNA) stillrelevant?
- Are your implementation strategies still appropriate/responsive? — especially considering emerging or shifting community needs.
- What are the best ways to stay engaged with your community when traditional methods may not be considered safe?
Putting your CHNA in context with COVID-19
If you recently completed a CHNA, you may be wondering if the data and findings in the report are still valid amidst this coronavirus environment… They still are!
Use current CHNA data as the baseline. Look at the identified needs in your CHNA and determine what impact the pandemic had or is having. For example, if your community was challenged with food insecurity issues, the pandemic has likely worsened that issue.
Comparing COVID-19 case rates alongside other health indicators such as rates of heart disease and diabetes or social determinants of health like percent unemployment can provide additional context for your CHNA.
Additional community benefit and CHNA resources:
Reigniting conversations with community partners
The past several months have been tumultuous for those working in healthcare and in local communities. As community service providers adjust their approaches to meeting various needs, it may be helpful to reignite conversations with community stakeholders to gain insights about what has changed from their perspective.
Public health departments and other hospital departments providing care may be consumed with responding to healthcare needs. You can provide a critical resource by coordinating conversations between community partners — reassessing needs, identifying resources and engaging other sectors. Sharing these insights will likely be a welcome resource for your partners.
Updating Your Implementation Strategy
Look to understand the increasing health needs in your community and emerging new priorities that have come with them.
COVID-19 has shined a light on the needs of the most vulnerable populations in communities. Addressing the social and economic conditions that stifle healthy outcomes (e.g., vulnerability of some essential workers, unemployment, food insecurity, and housing) has only grown in importance compared to a few months ago.
It’s okay to reflect on your current approach. Consider which strategies in your plan are still relevant and essential in relation to emerging priorities. What efforts can be temporarily paused, if necessary? You may determine that you’ll need to refocus limited resources to those who are struggling the most.
Within your prioritized health topics, determine if you can stratify groups who may be at greater risk for having limited or reduced access to care and services during shelter-in-place and physical distancing ordinances — and support efforts to roll out virtual alternatives.
Move forward with a health equity lens
As we collectively reflect on the current state of our communities, the role of health equity is an important consideration when it comes to assessing your CHNA and Implementation Strategies.
Structural inequities such as racism and poverty have been widely linked to disparities in COVID-19 health outcomes, and likely impacted health priorities in your CHNA. Redoubling your efforts toward health equity is an important response to the current crisis and for looking ahead.
Organizations such as the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Community Catalyst have tools and frameworks available that may help in this work. These could be crafted in-house or with the guidance of public health professionals with specialized expertise.
Resources for health equity:
Document and track changes
Document your efforts and track changes in your plans. Ensure that changes to your implementation approach are documented so you can report on your efforts later and provide rationale for shift and impact. Communicating both internally and externally will help align efforts toward shared goals. Employing a strategy-tracking software can help document updates to your response and changes to strategies.
The past several months have shown that the insights from your existing CHNA provide a baseline for understanding how needs are changing or emerging. Combining data and lessons learned from COVID-19 along with what you learned from your CHNA can only help to strengthen your analysis and response.
About Healthy Communities Institute
Conduent Healthy Communities Institute enables health-focused organizations to efficiently and measurably impact the populations they serve. The HCI platform includes more than 150 health, social, and economic indicators. HCI’s Consulting Services team has completed more than 200 community health needs assessments and implementation strategies. Through HCI’s platform and services, users can swiftly gain insights from data, identify disparities, plan and implement initiatives, and collaborate and communicate to make a difference. The HCI Strategy Tracking Solution combines the expertise and support of public health consultants with the power of the leading strategy-tracking software.
To make localized population health data available to organizations on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus, HCI launched: HCI COVID-19 At-Risk Populations.
Contact Conduent Healthy Communities Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.