Another way of measuring community health...
You should read on if you:
- are searching for ways of monitoring the health of your
- do not have enough resources for extensive surveying;
- feel that existing secondary data (e.g. census data) are
- believe environmental factors influence health and want to
find ways of measuring them.
Things to do:
What is a "community-level indicator" anyway?
Community-level indicators (CLI's) are derived from
observations of aspects of the community other than those
associated with individual community members.
For example: the diet of a community might be
tracked by observing what's on supermarket shelves. An increase
in the percent of milk that is low-fat on store shelves probably
means that people are drinking more low-fat milk relative to
whole milk. (Papers describing grocery store shelf-space measures can
be found in the academic literature
Another example: a community-level indicator of
community attitudes toward smoking might be the number, type and
visibility of non-smoking signs found in local workplaces. More
signs and more visible signs may be reflective of stronger
attitudes against smoking
An example of something that is not a CLI would be the
smoking rate in a community, since that is derived directly from
individual level (survey) information.
How are they useful?
- by avoiding individually-based measures, CLI's may be cheaper
to collect (for example, visiting 10 large workplaces rather than
surveying 1000 people).
- since CLI's are often derived from "unobtrusive" observation,
they are not subject to the biases that result when people describe their own
attitudes and behaviors.
- CLI's are often derived from measures of the community
environment, which is an important determinant of health.
How can I begin to use CLI's to track the health of my
- look at the list of ongoing
projects that are using community-level indicators to get an
idea of how they might be used. Some projects have survey instruments
available for downloading.
- review the sample list of
indicators for tobacco use, diet and physical activity to get an
idea of what potential indicators might look like.
- send e-mail or call to get free consulting or a referral
to other resources: Allen Cheadle, e-mail: email@example.com,
Supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute
Department of Health Services
School of Public Health
University of Washington
Soul Catcher: A Northwest Coast
Indian symbol of physical
and mental well-being.
Artist: Marvin Oliver
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