Learn how to create an effective community health improvement plan.
As defined by the CDC, “a community health improvement plan (or CHIP) is a long-term, systematic effort to address public health problems based on the results of community health assessment activities and the community health improvement process.” This type of plan typically extends for three to five years and involves extensive data collection and analysis, as well as close collaboration between community and city health department members.
It’s important to note that a CHIP is one part of a municipality’s overall strategy to improve community health and should not be confused with the health department’s larger strategic plan. A CHIP focuses on a specific set of priorities that are pulled from the strategic plan and then tackled by a group comprising both health department employees and contributors (volunteers) from the community. Contributors could include hospital partners, local foundations, representatives of distinct populations, religious organizations, schools, and many others.
Overall, the distinguishing factor of a CHIP versus other municipal plans is it relies on collaborative participation and community engagement to improve health. Having community members take ownership of the plan improves effort and results—without ownership, plans lose momentum.
There are two primary reasons a local government may want to implement a CHIP. The first is that the mission of health departments is to address and provide solutions to a community’s most critical health needs. And addressing those needs in collaboration with citizens has proven to be successful for health departments. Instances of infant mortality, chronic disease, substance abuse, and many other health issues have been reduced or prevented due to CHIPs. With these plans, departments are able to widen their reach into the community and avoid insular approaches by considering different perspectives and experiences. The shared goal is always to increase the quality of health.
The other reason is that implementing a CHIP may be required, either by the state government or in pursuit of an accreditation (such as PHAB). Achieving accreditations with CHIPs in place can increase a city’s odds of winning grants, strengthen partnerships, and enhance public relations and marketing efforts.
Before a plan is formed, a city must have a strong grasp on the condition of the community’s health. What is impacting citizens’ health the most? What do citizens want? What needs to change? What health resources does the city lack? Answering these questions will require detailed research and fact finding. Data can be sourced through surveys, interviews, focus groups, and external organizations such as the CDC.
Successful community coalitions have diverse memberships, a clear-eyed focus on the goal, and stable resources. When looking for people who would play strong roles in a CHIP, think about who might be invested in the community’s health. This could be business leaders, nonprofits, schools, health-based neighborhood groups, and any individuals who have been advocates in this arena.
At this point, the steps may begin to look familiar. CHIPs are essentially subsets of strategic plans and therefore created using the same general processes. The actual plan development begins in step three when the community and health department coalition create a vision and mission statement. These statements should define the reasons for implementing a CHIP and define the ultimate future goal. In this step, and all the subsequent ones, you must always ensure there’s alignment with the health department’s overarching strategic plan.
There’s no limit to how many priorities you can set, but a CHIP will be ineffective if you aren’t specific and focused on the top health issues (quality over quantity!). Start with the strategic plan’s goals and narrow your priorities from there. Consider the population size affected, seriousness, trends over time, existing resources, possible intervention strategies, and the like.
Once you’ve identified priorities, you’ll create associated goals—think of these as your community health improvement solutions. Goals are the tangible ways you’ll solve the health issues. Then you can develop strategies, which usually take the form of initiatives and measures, that specify how you’re going to carry out your CHIP. Goals and strategies should reflect the vision and mission statements, while also being realistic about the available resources and barriers to implementation.
To ensure a CHIP doesn’t stall out, assign owners to the strategies who are responsible for demonstrating progress. When filling roles, think about the skill sets of both health department employees and community participants. Remember, this is a coalition and ownership should be shared to increase the plan’s chances for success.
CHIPs require constant evaluation. This includes collecting and analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data to determine results. In some cases, accreditation boards like PHAB will outline how data should be reported. In others, a city should determine itself how to report progress.
Improving health in the community is a continual process. Even though CHIPs span three to five years, the plan should be reviewed annually to evaluate the data and determine if any adjustments should be made. Step six is perhaps the most important because it not only reveals how the CHIP is progressing, but where there may be gaps in data or strategies.
ClearPoint’s strategy software can help you navigate all the steps involved with creating a CHIP. Whether your health department is big or small, with plentiful or limited resources, our system can make CHIP development easy. Here’s how:
Contact us to learn how ClearPoint can help you create and execute your community health improvement plan.