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Matern Child Health J. 1998 Jun;2(2):95-109.

Community health monitoring: taking the pulse of America's children.

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  • 1Department of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, UCLA 90095-1772, USA.



To describe the development, content, enablers/barriers, and impact of child health reports in nine communities participating in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded Child Health Initiative (1991-1996).


A qualitative, prospective, multiyear, longitudinal evaluation using a multiple case-study methodology. Three waves of structured in-person and telephone interviews of the project staff, community leaders, and key participants tracked the development of child health reports in all nine communities. A mailed survey of project directors was administered to assess accomplishments at the completion of the project. Content analysis of each community health report was conducted using different conceptual frameworks for health measurement and reporting.


All communities succeeded in creating a report that contained a broad set of outcome indicators reflecting children's health and well-being. The process of creating these reports, their content, level of analysis, presentation formats, and dissemination varied across sites based on available resources, data and analysis capacity, and other political considerations. While commonly accepted outcome measures were used in most reports (e.g., infant mortality, teen births, immunization rates), process indicators, important for quality monitoring and community health improvement, were notably lacking. In each community the reports were credited with providing a more comprehensive and integrated view of the health needs of children.


Additional conceptual and technical work is needed to improve the ability of community health reports to capture key indicators of interest. Community reports can serve an important role in building the consensus needed to create program and policy changes. Community reports may have additional utility in monitoring the impact of health systems change on population health. Community reports can also facilitate a shared learning process for the participants and the community, and can be a useful tool to advance a children's health policy agenda.

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