Focusing on Drivers Instead of Disease: The Healthy Community Transformation Initiative

Presentation by Amanda Reddy, Noreen Beatley
October 18, 2013

Urban Institute   (NNIP Coordinator)

This presentation at the the Community Indicators Consortium Impact 2013 conference will engage participants in a discussion about a new indicator initiative that is uniquely focused on identifying the key drivers of community health at the neighborhood level. Indicators have a long track record of use in evaluating, monitoring and comparing community health. However, many health-based indicator projects focus on the absence or presence of disease within a city or county or include health as a subsection alongside other social, economic and environmental indicators. This approach yields useful information, but can overlook opportunities to identify and improve the underlying drivers of health disparities in a community or between neighborhoods within a community. The HUD Healthy Communities Transformation Initiative (HCTI) seeks to advance and complement these existing efforts with a unique focus on neighborhood-level health determinants. Across the country, many communities are taking action to improve the health and well-being of their residents by promoting sustainable and healthy neighborhoods. However, identifying the right indicators to track and evaluate neighborhood determinants of health can be challenging because there are very few reliable and standardized measures designed to address the range of physical and social determinants of health at the neighborhood level. As more communities take on the challenge of integrating health into community planning and development, there is an increasing need for a comprehensive, standard and transparent set of neighborhood-level indicators of health and well-being to help communities establish baseline conditions, prioritize investments, and evaluate progress towards community health goals.

The HCTI will support community efforts to improve neighborhood conditions and transform community health through the development and application of standardized healthy community indicators that are selected on the basis of their measurability at the neighborhood level, nexus to health, relationship to established public health objectives, ability to be easily interpreted, scalability for a range of communities, and capacity to motivate and create actionable policy and program change. The proposed presentation will describe the process used to establish and apply indicator selection criteria, including the challenges and opportunities of working across a range of non-health sectors to establish a common, health-based framework. Preliminary considerations for a companion tool/user interface, the Healthy Communities Assessment Tool, will also be discussed. Participants will also be invited to provide feedback on the development of the tool and piloting process.

Led by Healthy Housing Solutions, the HCTI team includes staff from the ICF International, the National Center for Healthy Housing, the International City-County Managers Association, and the Urban Institute.