How We Measure Health

Being healthy isn’t just about outcomes like how long we live, or which health conditions we do or do not have. Those are important indicators of health, but they don’t tell the whole story. 

We measure community health using a wide variety of information about our community.  The Population Health Framework guides the type of information we gather because it describes many of the underlying factors that affect community health and well-being. These underlying factors are called health determinants.

Our community health assessments include data about things that we don’t usually think are related to health but that influence our health in significant ways: jobs, housing, finances, the physical environment we live in. Our assessments also have data about health outcomes (like rates of disease), health behaviors, and how well people can access quality health care.

The 2018 Community Health Assessment and Community Health Snapshots include data from birth, death and hospital records, plus population surveys that describe our community’s characteristics and individual health behaviors.  We analyzed that data with some basic comparisons. We compared:

  • past years to recent years of Whatcom County data.
  • Whatcom County data to Washington State averages.
  • Whatcom County’s status to national standards or goals, when a national target is available.
  • data for groups of people by race, ethnicity, income, age, or geographic area to tell us if there are any health disparities in our community.

We also included information we gathered from community listening sessions, focus groups, and key informant interviews. In talking directly with community members and leaders, we identified health challenges and strengths that are important to people within Whatcom County.

All of this data gives us an understanding of changes to our community’s heath over time, patterns, and key concerns.