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Health Planning and Assessment

Summary of Program

Whether at a community, state, or federal level, decision makers and policy makers are increasingly being required to make decisions and implement actions based on the best evidence available. One of the core functions of a local health department is to regularly assess the public health needs of the constituency to anticipate and act upon those areas which are most amenable to prevention efforts. Community epidemiology is the branch of medical science that uses quantitative and qualitative methodologies to monitor health problems and their contributing factors and then applies this study to their control. The Manchester Health Department's Community Epidemiology and Disease Prevention Division works closely with local health professionals, community-based organizations and the general public to prioritize needs, establish effective solutions, and evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions. This community process involves an advisory group comprised of major stakeholders in the outcomes, research on models that work, presentation of findings to the community, community input into the development of effective service models, and feedback on the success of implemented strategies through ongoing health assessment. Activities are linked closely to the Healthy Manchester Leadership Council, which analyzes and plans service-related needs of the community.

While the Department has always maintained a basic level of community health assessment services, the community epidemiology program was formally established as a separate unit in 1995. The Community Epidemiology and Disease Prevention Division employs one full-time City-funded community epidemiologist, and one full-time public health specialist and one full-time information technology support specialist with the support of outside public health preparedness funding. Together, this team works in collaboration with community partners, to address chronic disease prevention, health disparities, neighborhood revitalization, public health preparedness planning, and workforce development

Summary of Activities:

  • Publication of Public Health Report Cards and reports on specific community issues or populations. This information is widely used by City Departments and community organizations for grant writing and resource allocation.
  • Assessment and evaluation support for community-wide planning and implementation initiatives such as the Seniors Count Initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Weed and Seed strategy funded by the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Development of data reporting, surveillance, mapping and communication systems for early identification of disease trends and potential public health threats
  • Targeted training in public health core competencies for staff through the NH Institute for Local Public Health Practice. Nearly 150 public health professionals have completed at least one of the five course offerings; 28 of whom are Manchester Health Department employees. This is professional development benefit for staff and has helped to reduce travel and conference expenses for training outside the City of Manchester.
  • Ongoing support of the Healthy Manchester Leadership Council's priorities such as oral health improvement, lead poisoning prevention and the design of city wide solutions to improve access to health care

Current Program Notes and Trends

The Community Epidemiology and Disease Prevention Division is currently working with the City's youth serving organizations to publish a community report on the health status of Manchester's children and families. The purpose of this report is to develop a core set of performance measurement indicators for monitoring local trends and priority issues facing this future generation and to provide recommendations for action on the community, policy and health care provider level.

The Division is also in the process of completing a report on aging in the City of Manchester. Program staff work closely with specialists within the Environmental Health Division to map out needs and resources available to this often very frail and vulnerable population. Both reports are expected for release later this year.