For Immediate Release: 11/16/2023 4:26 pm
WORCESTER, Mass. – The Worcester Division of Public Health (WDPH) – the lead agency of the Central Massachusetts Regional Public Health Alliance (CMRPHA) – in partnership with UMass Memorial Health, the Coalition for a Healthy Greater Worcester, and Fallon Health this month published the 2024 Greater Worcester Regional Community Health Assessment (CHA).
The CHA identified six priority areas to concentrate efforts, drive collective impact, and focus discussions on the region’s health improvement and health equity efforts: built environment, affordable and safe housing, access to quality and reliable broadband, navigating public benefits, healthcare workforce, and culturally representative healthcare.
“The CHA is a living document that highlights our critical public health challenges, focusing on upstream systemic inequities and drivers to negative health outcomes,” said Soloe Dennis, Director of WDPH and the CMRPHA. “We are very grateful for the Alliance and healthcare partnerships, along with community participation, as we collectively work to improve the lives of all residents within the Central Massachusetts Regional Public Health Alliance.”
The findings of the 2024 CHA will guide much of the region’s community health work over the next three years in addition to WDPH and the CMRPHA’s own programming, including:
“I’m very proud that the 2024 CHA process was locally led, leveraging existing partnerships and efforts that have been vetted and proven effective in engaging communities,” said Nikki Nixon, WDPH Chief of Data, Research, and Epidemiology and Lead Author of the CHA. “I’m excited for the release of our 2024 e-CHA, initiating the modernization of public health data.”
Conducted every three years, the CHA aims to identify community health issues, barriers to care, disparities in health outcomes, vulnerable populations, and gaps in the health service system across the CMRPHA, which currently consists of Worcester, Grafton, Shrewsbury, and West Boylston.
Development of the 2024 CHA took place from January – September 2023. Throughout the process, WDPH and its partners engaged with the regional community to determine shared priorities, goals, objectives, and strategies for moving forward in a cohesive and coordinated way.
In March, an advisory committee made up of about 50 community partners was assembled to develop the CHA’s scope based on the most impactful information and data that would shape community health programming and planning. The committee recommended which questions to include in public surveys, as well as which health outcomes and indicators to incorporate.
Subsequent assessment and research included 19 interviews and 13 health equity population conversations with 72 participants from throughout the region, 1,000 responses to the public survey, and data collection from multiple secondary sources to describe the socio-demographic and health profiles for the region.
According to the public survey results, the top seven indicators of a healthy CMRPHA were access to good healthcare, safe neighborhoods, access to healthy food, good schools and education, public parks/green space, stabilized housing, and livable wages/workforce development opportunities.
The full 2024 CHA can be found on worcesterma.gov/building-a-healthy-community/cha. In the coming weeks, the published document will be supplemented with interactive dashboards unique to each CMRPHA municipality and will be updated periodically with the latest findings.