Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Community Health Status Indicators Report Released

Great news! The US Department of Health and Human Services has published the Community Health Status Indicators Report, which contains health indicator data on over 200 measures for every county in the United States. Please visit for more information.

From the site:

The goal of Community Health Status Indicators (CHSI) is to provide an overview of key health indicators for local communities and to encourage dialogue about actions that can be taken to improve a community’s health. The CHSI report was designed not only for public health professionals but also for members of the community who are interested in the health of their community. The CHSI report contains over 200 measures for each of the 3,141 United States counties. Although CHSI presents indicators like deaths due to heart disease and cancer, it is imperative to understand that behavioral factors such as tobacco use, diet, physical activity, alcohol and drug use, sexual behavior and others substantially contribute to these deaths (see chart).

In addition to the web pages, community profiles can be displayed on maps or downloaded in a brochure format. The CHSI mapping capability allows users to visually compare similar counties (termed peer counties) as well as adjacent counties with their county. The downloaded CHSI report allows broad dissemination of information to audiences that may not have access to the internet.

The CHSI report provides a tool for community advocates to see, react, and act upon creating a healthy community. The report can serve as a starting point for community assessment of needs, quantification of vulnerable populations, and measurement of preventable diseases, disabilities, and deaths. The CHSI report is accompanied by a companion document entitled Data Sources, Definitions, and Notes (PDF - 261KB). This document gives detailed descriptions on data estimations, definitions, caveats, methodology, and sources.

To access a community profile, select a state and county name on the left navigation bar and select display data. The demographic characteristics of the selected county will appear as well as its peer counties (if applicable, counties similar in population size and frontier status). To move to another page, select the health indicator section from the list in the left navigation bar. To print the CHSI brochure, select the print report option at the top right-hand corner of the page; do not use the browser print option. To access the CHSI mapping tool, select the mapping option at the top right-hand corner of the page.

The July 2007 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease contains the following articles that provide additional information about the Community Health Status Indicators project:

Kanarek N, Bialek R, Stanley J. Use of peer groupings to assess county public health status. Prev Chronic Dis 2008;5(3).

Metzler M, Kanarek N, Highsmith K, Bialek R, Straw R, Auston I, et al. Community Health Status Indicators Project: the development of a national approach to community health. Prev Chronic Dis 2008;5(3).

Heitgerd JL, Dent AL, Holt JB, Elmore KA, Melfi K, Stanley JM, et al. Community health status indicators: adding a geospatial component. Prev Chronic Dis 2008;5(3).

Sondik EJ. The goal of adequate data. Prev Chronic Dis 2008;5(3).


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