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U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

Practical Approaches for Using Health Indicators: Questions and Answers

1. Is there a resource for finding out what model programs are going on in which counties? (i.e. to look for good programs in peer counties)

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) has a Model Practice Data Base available from their website // and is a good starting point. The Resources tab in CHSI points to resources pages developed by each of the CHSI partners to complement CHSI data and can be useful. For example, the CDC Resource page available from this section of CHSI links to CDC Community Health Resources and includes a searchable database to guides and materials that help plan, implement, and evaluate community health initiatives. State public health departments might also be able to direct people to county public health activities within a particular state. Additionally, CHSI provides lists of peer counties with similar demographics; health officials in peer counties can be contacted to see what initiatives they have underway. Lastly, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Health Care Innovations Exchange is a database of profiles of successful and attempted innovations so that organizations can share effective strategies and information for improving health care delivery.

5. Can you get the county information as a regional report?

The complete CHSI Dataset can be downloaded from the "About The Indicators" page for research and analysis purposes. The download file includes a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet containing several worksheets. There is a separate worksheet for the data elements in each of the indicator domains in CHSI. There is also a worksheet that defines each data element and indicates where its description is found in Data Sources, Definitions, and Notes. Finally, there is a worksheet that defines the meaning of specific values (such as missing or suppressed data). In addition, each of the worksheets in the Excel file is presented as a .csv (comma-separated value) file to insure accessibility. An accompanying text file identifies each of the .csv files. The Excel spreadsheet, the text file identifying the .csv files, and the set of .csv files are contained in the CHSI Dataset file (ZIP - 5.07MB).

After the CHSI database is downloaded, it can be opened in Excel. The CHSI data set is in Excel spreadsheet format with multiple worksheets. Counties are listed in FIPS code number order which lists state, and then counties and cities in alphabetical order. The FIPS county code is a five-digit Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) code (FIPS 6-4) which uniquely identifies counties and county equivalents in the United States. The FIPS code allows one to merge data from other sources such as the U.S. Census, health care resources, environmental information, etc. FIPS is also the coding used in any GIS program to produce maps. Scroll down the spreadsheet by state and then to a county, which are usually the leftmost columns. Alternatively, the "Find" feature can be used from the edit menu to search for specific county names. Note there may be several counties with the same name. Once a county is located on one worksheet, its data will be on the same line on each worksheet. One may copy any worksheet and paste data into Stata, SAS, or statistical software programs for analysis.