Jim Burdine on Presenting Community Assessment Data to its Community – What to Present

I’m Jim Burdine, Assistant Dean for Public Health Practice and Co-PI/Director of a Prevention Research Center at the School of Rural Public Health, Texas A&M. Over the last 30 years I’ve used community health status assessment as both a community organizing tool and intervention planning tool. In more than 200 different communities (including multiple iterations in the same community) I’ve presented/seen data presented from community assessments in a number of different formats with varying degrees of success and failure.

Lessons learned: What I’ve observed as most important, is presenting the data to them in a manner that matches the expectations of the audience – audiences, really. In other words, the groundwork you’ve already done in your assessment process (hopefully incorporating community-based participatory research principles) should dictate the format. If community members have been involved in planning, conducting and analyzing the data, they should play the major role in presenting the results. If they have been more passively involved, they may expect a “report” FROM you. Obviously the degree of “buy in” to the findings varies dramatically as a function of the degree of participation.

Given that starting place, the next challenges you face are: (1) the sheer volume of information you have to present, and (2) the variation in sophistication around understanding data within a community audience. So first, you have to accept that you can’t present EVERYTHING. You need to decide what are the key points you want to make and focus on those. We’ve all sat through a presentation where somebody reads us the demographics of a community or lists every chronic disease ever found in that population and an hour later you’ve learned nothing new. As a general rule I don’t both to report anything unless it is (1) statistically significantly different from some external reference point (e.g., Healthy People 2010, a state or national rate) and (2) unless there is something that could likely be done locally to impact that problem (it’s actionable).

If well-planned, you will have representatives from all community sectors in your audience (e.g., health care, business, elected officials, religion, education, the media, consumers and representatives of special interests/special needs groups). So you have to decide on what common denominators (e.g., educational attainment, exposure to health statistics) you are going to assume for your audience. You need to be comfortable with knowing that some aren’t going to understand everything you say and other are going to be bored with your “simplistic” presentation. Don’t make the mistake of trying to explain every point to each group n your audience. It just frustrates them and makes for a very ineffective presentation. Plan to do multiple presentations for different audiences rather than a “one size fits all” presentation.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

2 thoughts on “Jim Burdine on Presenting Community Assessment Data to its Community – What to Present”

  1. Great post! The advice is straightforward. I am currently writing a fact sheet based on my evaluation results for my internship. This post highlighted common errors that I had made (including too much information and explaining too many details). Thank you!

  2. Hi Jim! Great advice from the expert. We’ve certainly benefitted from your wise words and guidance in picking out the key things of our triennial assessment. Can you believe we are gearing up for iteration #6 – this fall? (#4 for me personally).

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