AMES, Iowa – By Feb. 26, 2011, every county in Iowa must file a Community Health Needs Assessment and Health Improvement Plan (CHNA & HIP) with the Iowa Department of Public Health. The plan, due every five years, is meant to evaluate community, county or even multi-county health needs and what could be done to address them. A new service from Iowa State University Extension can help counties gather the necessary data to develop these required plans.
ISU Extension, together with Campus Community Partnership for Health (CCPH) and the Center for Survey Science Methodology, originally developed the County Health and Human Services Assessment for Story County, explained Gregory Welk, director of clinical research and community outreach at Iowa State’s Nutrition and Wellness Research Center (NWRC). Welk was part of Story County’s committee five years ago, when an out-of-state research group conducted the Story County survey. This time, he thought, why not keep the job in Iowa? He then told them about the research capabilities within ISU Extension and the university. Story County was interested, so Welk, along with ISU Extension Specialist and Associate Professor Christopher Seeger, put together a team of researchers and students to develop the assessment.
The three-part assessment includes a written questionnaire, focus groups and an online survey. All three gather information related to six overarching public health goals: preventing injuries, promoting healthy behaviors, strengthening the public health infrastructure, preventing epidemics, protecting against environmental hazards and preparing for, responding to and recovering from public health emergencies. The purpose is to better understand the health needs and services within a county. The assessment also has a geospatial component, Seeger said, so the researchers will be able to identify gaps between the locations of existing services and where services are needed in the county.
In early April, 2,500 Story County residents received the written questionnaire, Seeger said. So far the researchers have received more than 1,000 completed surveys and hope to receive at least 1,250. Focus groups facilitated by ISU Extension community and economic development staff will be held in late May to gain additional insight. An online survey will be available on the United Way of Story County website, www.uwstory.org, to anyone in Story County from late May until the end of June.
Nora Ladjahasan, an assistant scientist with the Institute for Design Research and Outreach (IDRO), and Janice Larson, program coordinator with the Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology, are heading up the data analysis at Iowa State. Seeger said the team hopes to have Story County’s final reports completed by late summer.
More Counties Can Benefit
Now ISU Extension is offering County Health and Human Services Assessments to other counties in Iowa. Extension can conduct assessments for single counties or for groups of counties. Counties can add or change questions to fit their situation, but the groundwork already is done.
“It takes a long time to put together a survey. It’s always easier to start with something,” Welk said. “This is an example of a university-community partnership, an example of what the university can and should be doing to benefit life in Iowa.”
In addition, Welk added, the assessment isn’t a “one and done” survey. ISU Extension can assist counties with strategic planning to address the health and human service needs that are identified.
Those interested in conducting a County Health and Human Services Assessment in their county should contact Nora Ladjahasan for more information at 515-294-0734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christopher Seeger, ISU Extension Community and Economic Development, 515-294-3648, email@example.com
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, 515-294-0775,