Community health needs assessment now available for public review

The results for the southern Kenai Peninsula 2023 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) are now available for public review. The report identifies mental and emotional health, housing, substance use and child care as some of the top issues affecting residents.

The CHNA collects feedback from community members, health partners and other stakeholders and is coordinated through the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership (MAPP) coalition. The assessment is conducted every three years to evaluate community strengths, needs and health trends over time. The results are used by social groups, coalitions, agencies and organizations to inform current and future projects to improve general health status in the community.

“This is a process that all non-profit hospitals complete every three years to identify the needs and areas where communities can work together for community health improvement initiatives. South Peninsula Hospital has been a MAPP Steering Committee member and has helped lead the process since the very first assessment,” said Hannah Gustafson, current coalition coordinator for MAPP.

The first assessment for the region was conducted in 2008 and the last full-scale, community-driven report was released in 2016. “The 2020 assessment was fairly abbreviated due to COVID implications so the 2023 results is the first one that has really been robust since 2016 and was able to involve the broader community throughout the process,” said Gustafson. The 2016 assessment is what instigated Homer’s Opioid Task Force, which is now operating as the All Things Recovery coalition

The MAPP model is a community-driven stategic planning process that comes from the National Association of County and City Health Officials, or NACCHO. The assessment phase consists of four distinct assessments including “forces of change,” “community themes and strengths,” “local public health system” and the “community health status.” Some of what contributes to the data collection is qualitative data through the use of interviews and focus groups or community conversations and some is quantitative such as demographics and U.S. census data, according to Gustafson. A large part of the local feedback is obtained through a perception of health survey; this was launched at the last Rotary Health Fair, which took place in November 2022.

“We continued to gather survey data for several months and had a total of 1,020 residents complete that survey. That was conducted both online and paper format. Data collection was complete by February of 2023,” Gustafson said. “There is really valuable data available within the reports that can help nonprofits or agencies with grant writing and shifts to programming. The report really is the voice and story of our community. The goal is for it to be a resource and tool for anyone who is working to serve the population of our area.”

The service area for the assessment includes the entire population of the region from Ninilchik south to the very end of the road as well as all of the communities within Kachemak Bay, including Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek.

“It was challenging to include a representative sample of voices from some of those location. That’s always an important area to look at for improvement: ‘Whose voice are we not hearing?’

“We do our best, but a lot of times it means working on the weekends and tracking down where people are likely to be able and willing to fill out a survey.”

Part of the community survey asks participants to indicate the general area of their home residence such as Homer, Anchor Point, Diamond Ridge, Fritz Creek or Voznesenka. “That’s how we know where we’re getting responses from,” Gustafson said.

The report was completed with assistance from a national community healthy needs contractor. In addition to guidance from the MAPP Steering Committee, there was also a CHNA committee composed of members of the community that worked very closely with the contracted firm, according to Gustafson.

“The beauty of this data is that now that we have captured the voice of the community. We need to determine what comes next,” Gustafson said.

Community meetings will start in October. The first one will be at the Kachemak Bay Campus on Oct. 13 from 9 a.m.-noon and there will be another from 5-7 p.m. that evening. At the meetings people will be able to provide their input on the priority issues they would like to see addressed during this next cycle, which consists of creating a Community Health Improvement Plan.

On Oct. 27 from 9 a.m.-noon MAPP will reconvene to discuss strategies, goals, and actionable items based on the first meetings.

“The goal is to come together as a community to tackle an agreed-upon concern, deciding who can do what. A general issue such as ‘housing’ is so big that there is not a single individual or agency who can address that on their own. Real and lasting solutions come from the collective; it’s about being part of an active and concerned community,” Gustafson said.

Copies of the full CHNA report can be accessed at