7 Ways Hospitals Can Use CHNAs to Improve Health and Wellness of Communities

The Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) can be much more than a regulatory obligation for nonprofit and governmental hospitals. Done well, a CHNA can strengthen the hospital’s position as a provider of choice. It can also elevate the hospital beyond its historical role as a provider of sick care to a hub for health and wellness services in the community.

Recognizing their power to effect change, some progressive for-profit hospitals are also undertaking CHNAs as they aim to be more strategic and invest in the health of both their hospitals and the communities they serve.

There is tremendous opportunity to make an impact when efforts are aligned. Now is the time for all hospitals to engage community leaders in the shared goal of improved health and wellness. Here are seven ways to align efforts with community partners in a way that meet the regulatory requirements and demands of hospital investment, and have a lasting impact on community health.

CHNA assign a grade

1. Assign a grade.

Ask stakeholders to honestly assess how you performed in the first three-year performance period. Did you meet the goals set? How have you progressed in your mission? If your grade is a C, how can you improve that to a B or better this time around?

 CHNA revisit your mission

2. Revisit your mission. 

When hospital leaders see the process as an opportunity, a CHNA can help revitalize or refine the hospital’s mission. As a community’s population and environment changes, so must the mission of the hospital that serves it. Here’s a quick test: Does your mission mention health and wellness? If it only addresses treatment of the sick, then it might be time to revise it.

 CHNA inclusive process

3. Make the process inclusive within the organization.

It’s shocking the number of people on hospital boards and administrative teams who have not read their hospital’s CHNA. Often, the reason that they have not read the document is that they were not involved in the process of creating it. Make sure that anyone who you expect to participate in implementing the strategic actions has some part in the CHNA process—for example, by inviting them to a community forum or focus group.

 CHNA incorporate community leaders

4. Incorporate community leaders.

For too long, community hospitals have approached their roles as solo acts, making decisions that affect the health of populations without seeking input from representatives of those populations. By engaging those within the community who have a stake in improving population health, hospitals can use the CHNA to revitalize the hospital’s role, making it more relevant and competitive in the future of value-based healthcare. Take a look at your CHNA steering committee. Consider the sources of the community’s greatest health disparities and seek out community leaders who are addressing each disparity. Consider inviting leaders from one or more of the following community groups: faith-based organizations; the police department; the mayor’s office; the parks and recreation department; and health and human services entities.

 CHNA strategic plan

5. Make sure your strategic plan is aligned with the CHNA findings.

The mission of the hospital should be aligned with the health needs of the community. So, it makes sense that the strategic actions identified within the CHNA would line up with the hospital’s strategic plan. If the CHNA activities don’t support the hospital’s strategy, now might be the time to update that strategic plan.

 CHNA assign a champion

6. Name a champion for each strategic action.

Nothing gets done unless someone takes responsibility for it. Community forums and focus groups are ideal opportunities to identify and recruit people who are passionate about each of the issues that you are addressing.

 CHNA quick hits

7.  Accomplish some quick hits.

Not all of the CHNA strategic actions should have a three-year timeline. Identify some items that can be accomplished in a year or less. Use those success stories to build momentum for the more significant undertakings. Celebrate those successes and use them to remind the community members that they were accomplished through collaboration with partners in the community.


For hospitals that are committed to improving the health status of their communities, a properly conducted CHNA can be the catalyst and vehicle for bringing together the stakeholders, including those in the community, who can help make that goal a reality. 

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Topics: CHNA, Hospital Management

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