What if people in your community smoked less and were more active?
- How many cases of heart disease or diabetes would be prevented?
- How many years of life would be gained?
- And how many dollars could be put to better use?
Those are the questions communities across America are asking themselves as they strive to bring positive change to their citizens.
A new interactive tool, called Community Health Advisor, takes large quantities of health data and research and synthesizes it to provide some answers. Using microsimulation models, the tool can predict outcomes such as:
- Enacting a large tobacco tax in Louisiana could reduce smoking prevalence by 1.3% in one decade, prevent more than 1,600 cases of respiratory disease and save $4.3 million in medical care costs over a 10-year period.
- Creating zoning laws that require places for physical activity across Mississippi could reduce obesity prevalence by 1.6% in one decade and prevent nearly 12,000 diabetes cases.
With only so many health-improvement dollars available, communities have to make choices on where they can focus efforts. This online tool allows them to look at evidence-based options and make decisions on what interventions would have the most impact.
When combined with the maps and data reports available on Community Commons, organizations can provide customized information to policy-makers and funders and put themselves on the road to real change.
The Steps to Real Change
The rural community of Harrison County, Missouri has a County Health Ranking of 28 out of 115, but ranks 104 in overall health behaviors for the state of Missouri. It has smoking rates at nearly 50 percent higher than the state average.
In this simulated example, the local county health department sees its residents struggle with diabetes, heart and lung diseases, and tobacco dependence and they want to do something about it. A few ideas have been bantered about, but they’re not sure which one would be most effective. Using Community Health Advisor, they simply enter their state and county and the tool does the calculations to show the projected effectiveness of three evidence-based options.
While the data shows that enacting a large tobacco tax increase would be most effective, the department worries that a policy change that drastic may have little chance of passing. When comparing the other two options, they see that actually providing free smoking cessation products is expected to be nearly as effective as the large tobacco tax increase. The department decides to apply for a grant that allows them to provide the tobacco cessation aids for free.
Their next step is to demonstrate to potential funders, through data, that their community struggles with tobacco usage and that tobacco cessation aids can help the situation. The Community Health Advisor tool provides further analysis options to help with this by allowing the department to choose population filters such as sex, race/ethnicity, and age as well as look at other potential outcomes and to see comparisons.
Adding the information available through the Community Commons maps and reporting tools makes the job even easier. An impressive array of county demographics and data on indicators such as poverty, unemployment rates, access to care, and tobacco usage are available in a free, easy to use Community Health Needs Assessment Report (CHNA).
The report is downloadable in formats that allow for all or specific elements of the report to be included in grant proposals or presentations. It is also customizable so that indicators can be limited or additional data shown.
All CHNA reports include map features, but our Map Room allows users to explore further by searching for specific topics or using custom tools. This County Health Rankings map shows that Harrison County is ranked lower than any of its surrounding counties when it comes to adult smoking rates.
Like the report, maps can be saved, shared, and downloaded for inclusion in proposals or presentations.
The Community Health Advisor site also has Community Guides that include even more information and resources on enacting policy change related to smoking and physical activity. We encourage you to explore both the Community Health Advisor and Community Commons, as well as our Community Health Planning page, to assist you in your change efforts.
Community Health Advisor was created by the HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research and Partnership for Prevention, with input from the National Commission on Prevention Priorities. The Community Guide is a collection of recommendations and evidence reviews from the Community Preventive Services Task Force. This project is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.