According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the Affordable Care Act has encouraged numerous healthcare entities across the country to focus on improving the overall health of their communities. In order to address the health and needs of each community, a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) is recommended. These CHNA studies are typically conducted on a triennial basis. Oftentimes, hospitals and healthcare organizations work with a consultant and market research firm like Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) to ensure the CHNA meets objectives and provides a robust strategic action plan.

Components of a CHNA

What are the components of a CHNA? Although each and every CHNA process varies depending on the community and the sponsoring organization, many successful CHNAs share 7 core components. These 7 components are oftentimes divided into three stages: (1) information, research, and data collection stage, (2) a prioritization and strategy design stage, and (3) an implementation and action stage.

Here are 7 common components of a successful Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA):

Information, Research, and Data Collection Stage

  • (1) Community statistical profile and market area definition
  • (2) Quantitative survey among community residents
  • (3) Qualitative research with the healthcare community
  • (4) Qualitative research with community leaders and stakeholders

This stage and its four components are focused on exploring existing data resources and obtaining new quantitative and qualitative data. The first component involves designing a primary market area (PMA) for the CHNA which is defined as your community. All successful CHNAs use a quantitative survey to collect feedback from community residents. It is recommended that this component is done through a random telephone survey in order to obtain at least 400 completes (providing a +/- 5% margin of error). A random telephone survey provides an accurate and reliable picture of your community. The two qualitative research components can be completed through either focus group sessions or in-depth interviews (IDIs). Focus group sessions oftentimes provide a fruitful group discussion whereas IDIs give the interviewer more one-on-one time with each respondent and it provides the opportunity to really dig-into answers. Although both focus groups and IDIs have their pros and cons, RMS recommends IDIs as they are more convenient for participants to complete (in-person or over the phone).

A Prioritization and Strategy Design Stage

  • (5) Strategic planning priority session

This is a key stage and component of the CHNA process. RMS recommends holding a half-day retreat session with the CHNA work-team. A professional moderator facilitates discussion and guides the group through activities to help understand and comprehend the findings arrived at in Stage 1. The findings are then prioritized as a group. Priorities for health improvement are identified for the CHIP (below) and implementation strategies and action plans are brainstormed.

An Implementation and Action Stage

  • (6) Implementation and action plan
  • (7) A Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP)

These two components make up the final stage of the CHNA. A formal CHIP and action plan is laid out in the CHNA PowerPoint report prepared by the CHNA consultant and vendor, with the assistance of the CHNA internal team. Goals and strategies are formally identified in this document addressing the improvement of the overall health of the community. It is important to include measurable metrics in your CHIP for benchmarking purposes. The goal is to revisit those items continually and see how the dial has moved in the next 3 years in anticipation of your next CHNA.

RMS Healthcare is a healthcare consulting, market research firm, and CHNA vendor. We have worked with a number of healthcare organizations and entities to coach and guide them though their community health needs assessments (CHNAs). If you are interesting in learning more about our capabilities and CHNA services contact our Business Development Director Sandy Baker at or by calling 1-866-567-5422.