CTSA: Chicago, IL Vignette
Community Themes and Strengths Assessment
With its efforts focused primarily at a systems and policy level, the Chicago Partnership recognized the need to engage partners at the community level to develop a strengthened public health system. With a community of nearly three million persons, this presented some challenges. The partnership contracted with four existing community-based partnerships that had a more geographic focus. Each organization had the necessary expertise for reaching into their respective communities. Each local partnership conducted a series of three community forums: the first set informed the assessment process and subsequent meetings generated input on strategic issues and strategies.
At the first series of public forums, community members (both residents and local service providers) shared their perceptions of:
A member of the community-based partnership led each forum and was responsible for reporting the findings to the partnership staff.
Staff analyzed the findings from the forums, and then organized the findings in a manner that reflected both issues unique to specific communities and issues shared among multiple communities. For example, participants at most or all of the forums identified substance abuse, violence, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma as being among the most pressing health status problems. Frequently noted were access barriers such as poor transportation access, language or other cultural barriers, and poor healthcare coverage. Broader issues pertained to the complexity of the public health system, community mistrust, and limited funding for critical services. Participants also offered suggestions for system improvements, including greater community involvement in local planning, better communication, policy changes, greater collaboration, and stronger public health leadership.
The findings were presented to the Chicago Partnership at its September 1999 meeting. Partnership members discussed the findings, noting similarities between the communities' perceptions and the health status data. The suggestions for systems change were consistent with the partnership's vision. In one case, members noted that the perceptions of the community (that there were not enough community health centers) were inconsistent with their collective knowledge of the numbers, distribution, and capacity of the system. Members concluded that the issue might be related more to access than availability