When executed well, Community (or State/ Local/ Tribal) Health Improvement Plans are useful tools that help health departments:
- Provide a shared vision and framework for change
- Encourage multi-sector collaboration
- Prioritize community needs
- Identify high-leverage strategies
- Engage in data-based decision-making
But not all plans are created equal or lead to significant results. How can you be sure all of your planning efforts will lead to clear and measurable improvements in community health?
The following guidelines will help you write a simpler and more effective CHIP that gets the results you seek.
Your CHIP should possess the following six components:
A useful CHIP should contain all the required information in a concise and easy-to-read format.
Although it’s tempting to explain your plan in great detail, it takes more time to explain your strategies clearly and concisely. Mistaking lengthiness for substance is common.
Here is a simple “ends to means” formula that can be used to develop and outline each of your strategies in a concise way:
- State a community result or goal in easy-to-understand language.
- Define and graph a metric that will measure the status of the community result.
- Outline the contributing and limiting factors influencing the metric.
- Identify partners who have a role to play.
- List what works, what might work, or what has worked in the past to improve the metric. Include strategies that have worked in other departments and communities, as well as some of your best, educated guesses.
- List the specific actions, strategies, and plans you will execute, along with a timeline.
Check out the Vermont State Health Improvement Plan Performance Scorecard for examples of this “ends to means” framework (Click on each measure to see the 6 step process in action).
A frequently updated Community Health Improvement Plan is more accurate and timely. The plan must be accessible to do this.
- This means choosing a format that:
- Is visually appealing
- Allows collaboration
- Promotes productive and action-oriented meetings
- Is easy to update and republish
- Is easy to navigate
- Is convenient all around
Creating your CHIP in an electronic format (e-CHIP) can improve accessibility and increase the likelihood that your CHIP will inform decision-making.
Performance management software, such as Clear Impact Scorecard, can be used to create e-CHIPs that are easily updated and shared with partners, stakeholders, and community members. They can be embedded on your website or projected at meetings and community convenings.
Check out these examples of highly accessible e-CHIPs
A useful CHIP is composed of strategies with a high likelihood of creating impact. Once you develop your “what works” strategies in the six-step process identified above, you should choose the best to focus your efforts on.
The following four criteria, based on the concepts of feasibility, leverage, specificity, and value, can be used to create action-plans with a high chance of success:
- Leverage – How strongly will the proposed strategy impact progress as measured by the baselines?
- Feasibility – Is the proposed strategy feasible? Can it be done?
- Values – Is the strategy consistent with the values of the community and agency?
- Specificity – Is the strategy specific enough to be implemented?
You can prioritize your actions and strategies by rating their level of leverage, feasibility, specificity, and values. Ideally, you will want to select the strategies that rank highest on these criteria.
Read more about this prioritization process in our article here.
An effective CHIP uses a data-driven decision-making process to develop appropriate strategies and action plans.
In The Importance of Using Data in Setting up Your Collective Impact Initiative, Kate Tye outlines six benefits of using data from the beginning:
- Provides the opportunity for more in-depth analysis of the forces at work
- Enables collectives to interpret data and identify if additional data is required
- Facilitates discussion and provides a process to engage the community and partners
- Allows cooperatives to start from a strong position of understanding to commence the tracking and evaluation of change
- Offers evidence of successes
- Identifies the influence on other data. For example, a positive movement on one data source may impact others.
Here are three things to keep in mind during the data development phase of your Community Health Improvement Plan:
- What is the data telling you?
- Are there more or other kinds of data needed?
- How are you going to track and improve the data over time?
Continual evaluation of the entire CHIP is a must. Environmental factors, policies, and communities are always changing.
Rather than updating the plan every 3-5 years, your CHIP should be a “working document.” This is another reason e-CHIPs can be helpful.
The plan is only the beginning. To see real results, you must analyze the impact of your strategies and actions and make alterations on a yearly or quarterly basis.
Continually assess your metrics, update contributing and limiting factors, and assess whether your strategies contribute to the desired result. Make changes where necessary.
You can do this by going through the 6-step process, introduced earlier, once per quarter or year.
Work to weave equity throughout every component of your CHIP. Focusing on improving health conditions for the most impacted populations tends to result in improved conditions for all.
Racial equity is “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential” (PolicyLink).
Not including racial equity as a key component of decision-making means racial inequities are likely to be perpetuated.
To achieve racial equity you should:
- Move beyond “services” and focus on changing policies, institutions, and structures.
- Target Strategies to focus on improvements for those most affected
Demographically disaggregating your CHIP data will enable you to truly develop the range of strategies necessary to ensure that race and other factors do not predict opportunities, health, and wellbeing.
The appropriate e-CHIP software will allow you to easily aggregate and disaggregate your data for a full understanding of community health.
Are you ready to get from talking to acting? Now that you know what a useful CHIP looks like (concise, accessible, data-driven, feasible, up-to-date, and equitable) you can start your journey with a clear vision in mind.
Are you getting ready to update an existing CHIP? Not sure if the last plan made any impact? Now is the perfect time to revitalize your planning process. Your community can’t wait!
Download our free e-book, “The 6 Components of an Effective CHIP,” to learn more about this topic.
Interested in creating an e-CHIP? Download “e-CHIPs do it Better.”