Prioritization Process

In a community health improvement cycle, we use data from the community health assessment to identify a few, key priorities we will collectively work to improve. In 2019, Healthy Whatcom hosted a data carousel for 90 community stakeholders to identify the top priorities for Whatcom County:

data carousel

The Healthy Whatcom Team, with support from the Whatcom County Health Department and PeaceHealth, hosted a data carousel on April 24, 2019 for 90 community stakeholders.


A data carousel is a rigorous community process intentionally designed so that the wisdom and experience of every person in the room is an important part of the selection process. Participants go through five protocols to more deeply understand how health and well-being are experienced and to identify a few relevant, actionable priorities that align with Whatcom County community needs.

  1. Data walk: teams of participants interact with the data by visiting data stations. At each station, they make observations about the data and organize their observations into “strengths and concerns.” They then use the top concern to develop a focusing question.
  2. Why, Why, Why?:  teams explore possible causes/reasons that answer the focusing question.
  3. Significance and Control: teams explore the significance (as a cause of the underlying problem) and control (degree of control the community has over each cause) for each cause or reason.
  4. Root cause: teams analyze the interactions between the cause/reason identified as having a high degree of significance and a high degree of control. The cause/reason with the highest impact and interactions is identified as a root cause.
  5. Prioritization: at the end of the day, participants select a few relevant, actionable priorities that align with community needs and require the work of multiple agencies. These priorities will be the basis for the community health improvement plan.


During the data carousel, participants were organized into groups according to their expertise. Each group focused on one topic, and in the first four protocols, determined the most important thing to focus on in that topic area. Once a root cause was identified, all participants reviewed information presented by each group before selecting their top three recommendations for priority topics. The topics at right were voted as the top three priorities.