The Population Health Alliance of Calhoun County’s mission is to collaborate with local organizations to address our community’s health needs. We’re often asked how we identify priorities for our community. The answer is simple: the Community Health Needs Assessment.

The Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) is a data synthesis of primary and secondary data collected from residents within Calhoun County. The IRS requires a new CHNA every three years to ensure this data is up to date. Through community members’ feedback, the CHNA provides insights into the healthcare offerings and deficits in our county.

Setting Priorities

PHA members and partner organizations spend a lot of time in Calhoun County. The vast majority of us live here. However, our perception of the county’s offerings is not as beneficial as seeing holistic data of what the community thinks. That is why we partner with CareWell Services to help coordinate with local hospitals and the health department whenever a CHNA is on the horizon.

“The CHNA really guides our work and the work being done by healthcare organizations across the county,” said Angela Stewart, the Director of the Population Health Alliance of Calhoun County.

“We could not go as in depth with our data without the collaboration,” said Karla Fales, the CEO of CareWell Services Southwest. “When we did previously, the cost was astronomical and hard for us to manage independently.”

The CHNA provides the data local organizations need in order to identify what the community’s biggest needs are. By collaborating, everyone involved in the CHNA helps make progress possible.

In 2019, the last time we had a CHNA, the data collected from community members identified areas of concern for the county’s health. PHA reviewed these insights and used them to inform our priority areas. You can see a full list of PHA’s priority areas here.

These priority areas help PHA and other community organizations focus on work that is impactful to the community, not just work that we think will be impactful.

For example, CareWell Services focuses on providing aging services to the community, as mandated under the Older Americans and Older Michiganians Act. However, in order to make a lasting impact on the populations they serve, they turn to the CHNA for guidance.

“We incorporate the data from the coordinated CHNA to inform our mandated tri-annual and annually updated Community Needs Assessment (CNA),” said Fales. “We use the data to inform direction or take deeper dives into certain topics within our own CNA. We also use the data ongoing as we apply for grants and present advocacy efforts, which is one of the main purposes of our agency.”

Getting to Work

Once the CHNA is complete, community health organizations, hospitals and the health department analyze the data and make a plan within their own organizations to address any gaps they find in the healthcare offered to our county. Sometimes, priority areas can blossom into initiatives.

Take Operation Fit as a perfect example. When the 2013 CHNA came in, it was clear that obesity due to factors like decreased physical activity and insufficient nutrition was a huge area of concern. However, this isn’t a simple problem to address. It required a multiple-pronged approach, including dietary education, physical exercise, access to healthy foods, and more. To address that, Operation Fit was born.

Operation Fit was a collaboration between Bronson Battle Creek, Battle Creek Family YMCA, Battle Creek Community Foundation and Population Health Alliance, along with community agencies, organizations and philanthropic community members. The program strives to decrease the rate of childhood obesity in Calhoun County through all of the areas mentioned above. So far, Operation Fit has been a huge success, but it never would have been possible without the guidance offered by the CHNA.

Still, Operation Fit and PHA aren’t the only organizations impacted by the CHNA.

“In the past, the information from the CHNA has helped us set direction and inform our other work,” said Fales. “This can be seen through our continued focus on addressing the impact of chronic disease and integrating efforts with healthcare providers. We also have looked at how to expand healthy living programs in response to the same issues. Our outreach efforts involving our CHNA partners have been critical in reaching the community, like when we launched a mobile health kiosk to support outreach and health programming.”

Redefining Our Focus

The 2022 CHNA has just been released, and that means it’s time for community organizations to analyze, process and discuss the data from the survey. The information we find from this will dictate our focuses and approaches in the years to come as each group works collaboratively to move Calhoun County forward.

“We are better able to serve our community and implement plans of action toward improved outcomes when we come together,” Fales said. “It is hard work, with so many voices at the table, but it is the best way to create community change in a meaningful way.”

Do you have questions about the CHNA or how we define our priorities? Reach out to us today. We’d love to talk.