Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Collaborative Community Health Needs Assessments: Approaches and Benefits for Critical Access Hospitals


Recent policy and regulatory changes are creating an environment in which hospitals, public health departments, and other health care organizations are held accountable for identifying and addressing the health needs of their communities.Conducting effective Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs) requires resources and capacity that individual rural hospitals and communities may lack; thus collaboration among hospitals and communities has the potential for achieving efficiencies in the collection and analysis of local and regional health data and in supporting a robust community engagement process to identify priorities for community health improvement.
This brief informs the efforts of state Flex Programs to support Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) in conducting collaborative CHNAs and provides insight into the leadership issues encountered by CAHs and other stakeholders as they conduct their collaborative assessments. The results of these assessments can be used by hospitals as well as state Flex Programs to inform their ongoing strategic initiatives.

Key Findings:

  • Small hospitals and communities can successfully collaborate on CHNAs.
  • Collaborative CHNAs can serve as building blocks for a more comprehensive community health improvement strategy.
  • Data requirements for the community assessment obligations of CAHs, rural hospitals, public health departments, and community providers offer a key opportunity for collaboration and economies of scale in collecting and analyzing needed primary and secondary data.
  • Collaboration requires the development of trust and rapport among participants; the acknowledgement and management of imbalances of leadership, power, and resources; and recognition of each participant’s assessment needs.
  • Collaborative CHNAs can provide a foundation to engage diverse hospital, public health and other community stakeholders in the development of strategies to address identified community needs.

Suggested Citation: Gale JA, Coburn AF, Newton HE. Collaborative Community Health Needs Assessments: Approaches and Benefits for Critical Access Hospitals. Portland, ME: Flex Monitoring Team; May, 2014. Policy Brief #36.


Publication Type: 
Research and Policy Brief
Publish Date: 
May 16, 2014