Steps for Organizing in Your Community: Assess the Audience/Community - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Step 3: Assess the Community's Determinants of Health

Toolkit for Community Organizers:
Steps for Addressing Chlamydia in Your Community

Social determinants of health are the complex, integrated and overlapping social structures that include social, physical and economic environments that impact health.

Determinants of health help to describe the community you are working with to solve your problem. Exploring social, physical and economic determinants uncover the root causes of chlamydia. Think…Why might youth decide to be sexually active? What influences this decision? Why might sexually active youth not use a condom? What social, physical or economic factors influence this behavior?

Social environment –
This is the aggregate of social and cultural institutions, norms, patterns, beliefs and processes that influence the life of an individual or community.
Physical environment –
Comprised of both the natural and built environments, is the structure and function of the environment and how it impacts health.
Economic environment -
A composite of economic, social and work status as indicated by income, education level and occupation. Health is influenced by one’s access to and consumption of goods, services and knowledge.
  • Educational attainment
  • Extra-curricular activity – what is available
  • Language/literacy
  • Access to mass media/technologies
  • Culture
  • Social norms
  • Teen pregnancy and birth rates
  • School enrollment by race
  • Home languages of students

MN Student Survey

  • Feelings about school
  • Truancy
  • Unsupervised time
  • Grades
  • Frequency of changing schools
  • Treatment at school - school connectedness
  • Victimization at school
  • Use of time- extracurricular activities and participation in civic activities
  • Enrichment activities
  • Family composition
  • Parental communication
  • Perception of family caring
  • Family substance abuse
  • Physical and sexual violence
  • Feelings of physical appearance
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • High risk behaviors
  • Emotional well being
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Sexual behavior - + one or more of the above.
  • Housing
  • Green space
  • School
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Transportation
  • Availability of recreational areas
  • Rate of children abused and neglected
  • Rate of children in out-of –home placement

MN Student Survey

  • Feelings of safety at school
  • Feeling of safety going to and from school
  • Feeling of safety in neighborhood
  • Illegal gang activity at school
  • Access to alcohol/tobacco/ drugs
  • Insurance coverage
  • Utilization of MN Health Care programs
  • Access to health care
  • Job opportunities
  • Poverty rate
  • Maternal education level

MN Student Survey

  • Free/reduced lunch
  • Last physical exam
  • Chronic health problems
  • Mental health problems
  • Chemical use problems
  • Gambling
References: Social Determinants of Health (Word)


  • Use data that already exists when possible. A few good sources of community data:
  • Organize and present the data to tell the story of chlamydia in your community.

Kandiyohi County & CHAS

CHAS investigated the root causes of chlamydia disparities and the determinants of sexual health in Kandiyohi County using existing data. They looked at factors including educational attainment, links between high school graduation and post secondary degrees; teen pregnancy and birth rates; diversity of the student population and mobility of students; employment and household income; homeownership disparities among young families; access to medical care and uninsured rates; and connections to faith communities. These root causes may be related to the high rates of chlamydia:

  • Low rates of high school graduates receiving a bachelor’s degree or higher and high rates of teen pregnancy among 18-19 year old mothers.
  • Only 39.5% of families with children own their homes and higher rates of children living in poverty as compared to the rest of the state.
  • Relatively lower rates of unemployment, with the majority of people being employed in health care, retail, trade and manufacturing.
  • The ratio of patients to primary care physician is 488:1, lower than the state average, but 11 percent of children are uninsured.
  • Churches are viewed as both a hindrance to and an important player in promoting sexual health of youth; 76.9 percent of the population report having an affiliation with a faith organization.

These data were previously collected and provided a foundation of evidence to present in Strategy Group meetings. It was difficult for the coalition to keep congruent with the social determinants of health through the planning process.

Examples: Community Assessment Example (Powerpoint)


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Updated Friday, September 16, 2016 at 11:02AM