Health Transformation Via a Website

Central Oregon uses technology to help improve community health

Community health assessments and community health improvement plans have become a required component of the healthcare transformation landscape, some communities are turning to technology to assist with the planning process. Healthier Central Oregon, a web-based source of population data and community health information is helping policymakers, planners and community members in Central Oregon make their community healthier.

The website is being run by the Central Oregon Health Board (Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes counties) and the Central Oregon Health Council and sponsored by St. Charles Health System and Pacific Source Health Plans.

The Healthy Communities Institute, an online provider of community health needs assessments and community health improvement tools and services, is hosting the site.

“The problem the Healthy Communities Institute set out to solve was that while data was available, it was decentralized, inaccessible, hard to understand, and came from many different sources,” explained Cassandra Miller, MPH, an account manager with the institute. “Often times the data was tucked away in a spreadsheet or under a layer of query tools. Now, users can see community data all in one location, can make meaningful comparisons, and the data is continuously updated.”

The Healthier Central Oregon site went live in January 2013 and since then has had 1,947 visitors. The Central Oregon Health Council is working to make the community more aware of the site, especially as it begins to update its community health assessment and community health improvement plan.

“We want our partners and community members to be able to use the site to gather information, make comparisons, and look at best practices,” said Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown, MPH, RN, public health director for the Crook County Health Department. “There are a lot of opportunities with the site. For example, we will be able to conduct surveys with it as we work on our community health assessment and improvement plan. For community partners who are looking to write grants, it serves a place to easily pull data and to even look for funding opportunities.”

While, the Healthier Central Oregon website is intended to help community members and policy makers learn about the health of the community, it’s also a tool for collaboration and advocacy. Users aren’t mere visitors; they can actually contribute content such as promising practices, reports and articles.

The Healthy Communities Institute hosts similar community sites in 35 states, including Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, and Wyoming. Other sites in Oregon include Healthy Columbia Willamette Collaborative, Healthy Klamath, St. Charles Health System, Silverton Health, Tuality Healthcare, Salem Health, and Santiam Hospital.

“Many websites are hard to navigate,” DeLaVergne-Brown said. “The Healthier Central Oregon site (and all of the Healthy Communities Institute sites) is very user friendly. It really helps the user connect with what’s happening in their community and how they can work to improve it.”

Besides public health information, it includes data and comparisons on the economy, education, environment, government and politics, public safety, social environment and transportation.

A user can even get more personal with the site by calculating their Body Mass Index or seeing how walkable their neighborhood is by checking their “Walk Score.”

“We are using the site to help the community improve health,” DeLaVergne-Brown noted. “It’s really for the community.”


Joanne can be reached at [email protected].

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