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Help Articles in the Data Topic



Frequently Asked Questions

How were the indicators selected for the CHNA Report tool?

The CHNA Workgroup has identified a focused set of health-related indicators to ensure a robust and consistent approach to CHNA. The CHNA indicator list includes over 80 indicators that together help users understand the health of a community. The indicators are organized into categories that allow the user to answer the following questions:

Demographic Data: Who lives in the community?
Key Drivers Data: Where are the areas of greatest need within the target area?
Health Outcomes Data: What are the major health issues faced by the community?
Drivers of Health Data: What is causing the health issues identified?

See a complete list of indicators here.

How often is the data in the CHNA Report tool updated?

We update data on a regular basis. If you see something that is missing or out of date please let us know.

How can I upload my own data into the Commons mapping tool?

If you are a moderator or administrator of one of our Collaborative Group Spaces you should see an Upload Data tab in the Add Data menu when making a map. If you are not an Admin or Moderator of your group and you’d like to upload data, please contact your group Admin for permission.


We do not currently offer individual subscriptions to upload data. We’re looking into this possibility and will make an announcement through our newsletter when that feature is available.

If you are interested in creating a group space on the Commons for your collaborative or organization, contact us for subscription information.

How can I share my finished report with others?

You can print the CHNA report, or download it as a Word Document or PDF. When viewing your completed report click Download Report in the upper right-hand corner.

If you are a group member, you can also save your finished report to your collaborative group on the Commons.

Can I import local data into the CHNA Report tool?

The CHNA platform does not allow users to upload local data at this time. The purpose of this public report is to provide a common set of national indicators for service areas across the country, addressing that there is variation in the size, shape, and data availability across regions. We do recognize the value of local data for currency and specificity, and encourage users to export their reports in Microsoft WORD format. A WORD report allows you to edit the common indicator report in any way you choose, including the addition of charts and figures from local data.

Many organizations have partnered with us to create a custom report tool highlighting their unique or local data. If you are interested in creating a customized CHNA report tool for your region or organization, contact us.


What do the green and red numbers in my report mean?

Table figures are color coded red or green to signify an area’s performance relative to a benchmark. Green indicates more favorable performance while red indicates less favorable performance. Benchmarks vary across indicators, and represent Healthy People 2020 objectives (when directly comparable) or state averages. Figures are not color coded for indicators with no discernable positive or negative outcome (age, population density, race, etc).

In my CHNA Report, the data for my indicator is broken down by race and ethnicity in my report table, so why isn’t the data for Hispanic/Latino populations showing up in my pie chart?

Race and ethnicity are collected in most applications as two separate categories, based on methods established by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 1997. By the OMB standard, the minimum race categories reported are:

1. American Indian or Alaska Native
2. Asian
3. Black or African American
4. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
5. White

The minimum ethnicity categories are:
1. Hispanic or Latino
2. Not Hispanic or Latino

The CHNA report tool aims to provide data by race and ethnicity whenever it is available. Because race and ethnicity are two separate self-identification categories, they may be reported together, or discretely. When reported together, data may be presented in the following manner: White (Non-Hispanic); White (Hispanic); Black (Non-Hispanic); Black (Hispanic); etc. Data reported in this manner may be presented in a pie chart because the segmented population constitutes the total population of an area.

Often, the sample size for a population group with race/ethnicity together does not meet the minimum required population threshold for reported data. When reported discretely, the sample size may be adequate to display include statistics for population groups by race, independent of Hispanic origin, and for population groups by Hispanic origin, independent of race. For these indicators, only the data segmented by race constitutes the total population. Data reported for Hispanic origin is still valid, but must be excluded from the pie chart because the population overlaps the population by race.

In the CHNA report, why can’t I see race/ethnicity characteristics for some indicators?

Reports are broken down by race and ethnicity whenever that information is publically available from the source. Many sources take caution to protect sensitive data, and this often includes suppressing race/ethnicity/age information from public consumption, even when that information is collected and therefore ‘known’. Data for smaller geographic areas (like ZIP codes), and data for demographic groups which have lower populations, are less likely to be reported by race/ethnicity. As a general rule, the data behind the CHNA platform uses a minimum sample size of 30 in order to produce reliable estimates.

What is the American Community Survey?

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides new data every year. This gives communities current information needed to plan investments and services. Information from the survey generates data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year.

-A guide: A Compass for Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data is available here.

-A quick primer on the differences between the American Community Survey and Census 2010 data is available here.

-We also like this Librarian’s Guide to Understanding the American Community Survey Multiyear Estimates.

Why is the American Community Survey used for the CHNA Report demographics rather than the Census 2010?

The American Community Survey was selected for the majority of the demographic indicators in this report because the data are regularly updated. Census 2010 was selected to report total population because the specific population breakdowns required are only available in the 2010 Census.

What are Vulnerable Populations?

Vulnerable populations can be identified by socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, geography, gender, age, disability status, risk status related to sex and gender, and other populations identified to be at-risk for health disparities.

What is a Vulnerable Populations Footprint?

Two key social determinants, poverty and education, have a significant impact on health outcomes. Those that live in poverty and have low educational attainment are often identified as vulnerable populations. The tool allows you to automatically see the Vulnerable Populations Footprint (VPF) area for your community.

Vulnerable Populations Footprint (VPF)— The VPF tool within Community Commons maps percent of residents in poverty and those with low educational attainment as a resource in identifying the communities most in need. Areas in red depict overlap of high poverty and low educational attainment. Thresholds for percent impacted can be modified.

Is there a complete list of all the data available to map in Community Commons?

Yes! Check out our complete mapping data list here.

You can also view our data updates here.

And view our complete list of report data here.

Are we missing something? Let us know.

What exactly are age-adjusted rates?

The rates of almost all causes of disease, injury, and death vary by age. Age adjustment is a technique for “removing” the effects of age from crude rates so as to allow meaningful comparisons across populations with different underlying age structures. For example, comparing the crude rate of heart disease in Florida with that of California is misleading, because the relatively older population in Florida leads to a higher crude death rate, even if the age-specific rates of heart disease in Florida and California were the same. For such a comparison, age-adjusted rates are preferable.

Age-adjusted rates are calculated by applying the age-specific rates of various populations to a single standard population. In CDC WONDER, if you choose to age-adjust rates, you must specify your standard population (or accept the default). It is good practice to specify a standard is that generally similar to the populations being compared. For example, if requesting breast cancer mortality rates for white females in Massachusetts for the period 1979-1991, you might specify “1985 Massachusetts white females” as your standard population.

When browsing for data layers, what do the colored stars indicate?

The colored stars provide at-a-glance information about the source of the data layer so you can make the best decision about which data best fit your needs. There are three different data assurance levels:


Can I download the GIS data for use in desktop GIS?

At this time, no. We’re exploring ways to provide access to the geographic data. We’ll be sure to share any updates through our newsletter. Have you signed up?

How do you estimate county level indicators for areas smaller than a county?

We use an approach called the Small Area Estimate. You can learn more about our methods here.

Still stuck? Contact us here