Key Points

· As interest in outcomes continues to rise, community indicators have become a widely used tool to measure progress. While indicators provide a vehicle for understanding and addressing community issues from a holistic perspective, current efforts seem to suffer from both a notable absence of local-level data and end-user information overload, whereby the presentation of numerous and often disconnected indicators makes it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from the analysis.

· We highlight the results and our experiences with a community health needs assessment conducted through an indicator project in Michigan’s Kent County. The analysis and visualization of the indicator project was based on the book Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the ‘Real’ America and the website PatchworkNation.org. Using principal components analysis, we reduced a set of 25 separate indicators developed through broad participation into a five-component solution at the census-tract level to facilitate greater understanding of health needs and disparities across the county. The result is a more informative approach to assessing community needs that is easily understandable, visually appealing, and more applicable to a broad audience.

· We believe the lessons learned from our approach to community-indicator projects can help other grantmakers increase the effectiveness of dataintensive, large-scale community-indicator work.

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