Community Health Needs Assessment (CHA)

Click Here To View the Current CHA

The ultimate goal of an assessment is to identify priority health issues to be used as a guide to develop strategies to impact and improve the overall health of the community. This effort included a comprehensive review of health and lifestyle data from primary and secondary data sources including a community survey.

2019 CHA Process

The community survey was administered at all of the local medical centers and at the Health Department, social media, as well as advertised with a published web link in the local newspapers. The web link was posted on all four of the partner organization’s websites, a total of 907 surveys were completed by county residents. The comprehensive data review, in combination with the community survey results culminated in the identification of the top 3 health focus areas for Polk County. The top 3 health focus areas identified were:

  • Substance Use
  • Mental Health
  • Obesity (Nutrition and Physical Activity)

Four community forums were sponsored in Balsam Lake, St. Croix Falls, Amery and Osceola. The community members in attendance offered input and suggestions on the health focus areas. In addition, a partner meeting was held targeting key organizations and stakeholders as well as local health-related coalition representatives. At each of these venues, attendees had the opportunity to provide input on the top health focus areas.

The final top health focus areas selected by participants in the CHA process were:

  1. Mental Health
  2. Substance Abuse
  3. Obesity (Nutrition and Physical Activity)


County Health Rankings Model

Health Departments have a long-standing statutory responsibility to conduct periodic community health needs assessments to assess the health priorities of citizens in their jurisdictions. Hospitals also have tax exemption obligations under the Internal Revenue Code relevant to community health needs assessments and setting strategic and operational plans designed to improve health needs for the communities they serve. By leveraging resources for community health assessment activities, partnerships between government and other sectors can minimize duplication of effort with CHA results assisting all organizations in improving quality primary prevention and other health related services to the populations served.

In assessing a community’s health, it is important not only to look at disease and injury incidence, but to also carefully consider the factors that lead to poor health outcomes.

This approach helps people to focus on prevention strategies to identify the greatest opportunities to  improve health. Often people believe that individual health behaviors (an action taken by an individual or  group of individuals to change or maintain their health status or prevent illness or injury) and quality health care are the primary factors that shape health, but two other major influences play very important roles – the social and economic factors and the physical environment. This community health needs assessment examines all of these factors.

The County Health Rankings Model, shown in Figure 3, was created by University of Wisconsin (UW) Population Health Institute to show the many factors that influence the health of the whole population. These factors include:

  • Health behaviors (actions individuals take that affect their health)
  • Clinical care (access to affordable, quality, and timely health care)
  • Social and economic factors (income, education, employment, community
    safety, and social supports)
  • Physical environment (where individuals live, learn, work, and play)

Annually, UW Population Health Institute provides every county in the nation with a “ranking” score for each of the 4 categories of health factors as well as an overall health factors and health outcomes score. Health outcomes represent how healthy counties are within the state. The healthiest county in the state is ranked #1. The ranks are based on two types of measures: how long people live and how healthy people feel while alive. The following table shows Polk’s rankings out of 72 counties in Wisconsin for the past 3 years.

Polk County data for the rankings has remained relatively constant throughout the past 3 years. Slight variations in rankings have occurred primarily due to changes or additions in data elements considered for health factors, particularly in the physical environment category. The Rankings data, along with data from a wide variety of sources is considered when identifying and prioritizing health focus areas and in subsequent work to create a community health improvement plan.