Healthy Communities Institute, a Berkeley, Calif.-based community population health intelligence consultancy, has launched an interactive online tool to assist in creating community health needs assessment preparation.

The tool, the CHNA Guide, was developed specifically to assist hospitals, health departments, and other healthcare organizations charged with the task of conducting community health needs assessments, or CHNAs. The CHNA Guide provides an interactive step-by-step approach for them to identify at-risk populations in their service areas and then design strategies, plans, and programs to address prioritized needs.

HCI executives said the tool, a component of its HCI Platform, simplifies all CHNA process activity into three areas: assess, prioritize, and design. Within each area, health planners are stepped through instructions for completing the requirements, along with examples, tips, and expert advice from HCI’s team of public health and research professionals. Integrated throughout the guide are links to tools and essential data available on the HCI Platform, along with access to thousands of evidence-based programs to pair with an organization’s prioritized needs.

Non-profit hospitals are a target market for the CHNA Guide. Since 2012, they have been required to conduct a CHNA every three years and prepare an associated implementation strategy detailing how they are addressing identified needs. Both must be filed with their IRS 990 Schedule H to protect their non-profit status.

“In most cases, community benefit departments were forced to absorb this responsibility,” said Deryk Van Brunt, president of HCI. “Often there was a great deal of uncertainty in uncharted territory and despite heroic efforts, many experienced a significant amount of inefficacy and confusion. As the next wave in the three-year cycle of the assessments approaches, we saw that our expertise and technology could be immensely helpful in systematizing their approach.”

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