Have you ever wondered how San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) staff determines which resources to offer the communities we serve? Or how we measure the impact of our programs on community health? The Assessment and Planning division supports the entire SJBPH team by collecting and analyzing data about population health to determine the health needs of people in Archuleta and La Plata counties, then studies what programs are available to fill the gaps and address health concerns in our region. SJBPH staff and community partners use this information to request resources from the state, apply for grant funding, and demonstrate community readiness for new services.

Assessment and Planning is a core public health activity required by Colorado state law. Every five years, each local public health agency must “complete a local public health plan based on a comprehensive assessment of the community’s health and environmental status.” This Public Health Improvement Plan (PHIP) is the basis for our agency’s strategic plan, fulfilling SJBPH’s mission to protect human and environmental health and inspire well-being. To create a PHIP that reflects our local needs and resources, Assessment and Planning staff blends feedback from the Community Health Assessment, core services that are required by law, and staff expertise about effective, evidence-based programs.

SJBPH’s most recent Community Health Assessment was conducted in the spring of 2018. Staff and partner organizations distributed a health needs survey to over 1,000 residents of Archuleta and La Plata counties. This survey asked residents to rank their health concerns across categories that were based on the Colorado core public health services. The results of the survey were combined with health data to create a document detailing the health status, needs, and opportunities of residents in our service area. [This document will be published to our website to serve as a community resource in early 2019.]

Assessment and Planning staff worked with a steering committee, made up of community health experts from both Archuleta and La Plata counties, to study health data and resident feedback to identify action areas for SJBPH. This months-long process involved forecasting trends in statewide, regional, and local public health to align identified local needs with future programmatic opportunities. Over the next 5 years, San Juan Basin Public Health will evaluate our progress in 7 program areas, 3 of which have been identified by our communities as “high priority”, by applying the following overarching goal statements to our work:

  • To foster a more resilient community, SJBPH leadership and staff will develop and implement equitable strategies to improve awareness and acceptance of, as well as access to, the resources, programs, and services our community members need to achieve improved individual and population health.
  • To expand organizational capacity, SJBPH leadership and staff will seek and create innovative and sustainable opportunities to augment funding and infrastructure, meet or exceed training requirements, provide learning and growth opportunities for employees, develop and implement policies and procedures based on best practices, and support effective administration and governance.
  • To elevate public health practice, SJBPH leadership and staff will research, collect, and utilize data and scientific evidence to predict emerging population health issues, create innovative programs, enhance existing services, provide recommendations to partners and policy-makers, and when developing, securing, and utilizing resources.

These goals will guide the development of objectives, strategies, and activities designed to measurably improve individual, population, and environmental health in Archuleta and La Plata counties. The final PHIP is adopted by the Board of Health prior to implementation.

Kristin Pulatie is the Director of Assessment and Planning at San Juan Basin Public Health