Southern Nevada Health District: Setting Targets to Drive Improvements in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

This blog post is part of our quarterly series highlighting the work of Healthy People 2030 Champion organizations. Healthy People 2030 Champions are organizations recognized for their work to improve the health and well-being of people in their communities and to help achieve Healthy People 2030’s goals. 

The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) serves more than 2.3 million people — including residents of Las Vegas. Within SNHD, the Office of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (OCDPHP) takes a data-driven approach to assess the community’s health — and to set goals that translate into programs and policies for health improvement. Healthy People 2030’s Leading Health Indicators (LHIs) and specific measurable objectives play a key role in that approach. 

“We implement evidence-based initiatives to support health and well-being in our community,” says Rayleen Earney, Health Educator at OCDPHP. “Healthy People 2030 LHIs and objectives provide benchmarks that we can use to evaluate our progress — so we can see what’s working well and where we need to make changes.” 

Earney and her colleagues Nicole Bungum (OCDPHP Supervisor) and Maria Azzarelli (OCDPHP Manager) recall how the Healthy People initiative has been guiding their health improvement efforts from the very beginning of their tenure. “When we started working together nearly 25 years ago, we kept a hard copy of Healthy People 2000 in our office,” Azzarelli says. “Healthy People has been a big part of the work we’ve done throughout the decades.”

Setting targets to drive change

OCDPHP sets targets to work toward health improvements in chronic disease prevention and management. “We set targets to guide decision-making and allocation of resources, and to focus efforts on strategies that create the greatest community impact,” Bungum says. “Our office refers to Healthy People 2030 targets because they provide a reliable, transparent, and systematic approach to evaluate progress made every 10 years.” 

For example, OCDPHP used objective PA-01: Reduce the proportion of adults who do no physical activity in their free time to set a target for physical activity efforts, consistent with the national goal of 21.8 percent. To help achieve this target, OCDPHP used evidence-based strategies to increase opportunities for physical activity. Between 2019 and 2021, OCDPHP saw progress in its community, with the percentage of adults who don’t do any physical activity falling from 26.6 percent to 24.3 percent. 

How did they do it? In addition to long-term policy, systems, and environmental change strategies to improve community design for physical activity, OCDPHP used Move Your Way® materials and developed physical activity initiatives specific to Southern Nevada — including Move Your Way summer events, which offer fun ways to move during Southern Nevada’s hot summer months, when it’s difficult to be physically active outside. OCDPHP partners with communities to hold active pool parties at city and county pools, with free entry for families and opportunities to learn about Move Your Way and the importance of physical activity. Over the years, the initiative has expanded to support free swimming lessons as well as youth swimming and water polo recreational programs. 

Making data accessible: Healthy People 2030 Progress Tracker

Azzarelli points out that fostering multisectoral collaboration is an important component of OCDPHP’s efforts — and transparent communication with partner organizations, communities, and the public about progress toward health improvement targets is key to collaboration. Each year, SNHD hosts a County Health Rankings event: an opportunity to share data with the community, highlight collaborative successes, and identify barriers and gaps. SNHD also created a range of publicly available data dashboards that anyone can use to monitor their community’s progress in key areas of public health. 

SNHD’s Healthy People 2030 Progress Tracker shows current data for Southern Nevada communities alongside Healthy People 2030 targets, including a visual status indicator that shows at a glance which targets the community has met — and where there’s still work to be done. The dashboard shows data for a range of topics, like death rates due to different diseases and other causes, tobacco use, people living below the poverty level, and high school graduation rates. It allows users to view data for Clark County — which includes Las Vegas — as a whole or at the city, zip code, or census tract level. 

In addition, a data comparison feature allows users to measure progress over time. For example, while Clark County falls short of the Healthy People 2030 target for TU-02: Reduce current cigarette smoking in adults, a data comparison over the years shows a steady decline in the number of adults who smoke (with the exception of a brief uptick in 2020). “Although there’s still progress to be made in reaching Healthy People 2030 targets, we’ve made great strides in reducing tobacco use in our community,” Azzarelli says. Seeing the progress made over the years shows professionals trying to improve community health that their efforts are making a difference — even if a target hasn’t been met yet.

Gathering local data to meet local needs

While Healthy People 2030 tracks progress toward health improvements on a national scale, OCDPHP also uses local data to set specific targets for health priorities in the community. “In some cases, the local data we need or want isn’t readily available,” Azzarelli says. “In those cases, we work with our partners to develop data collection instruments and collect data to use for target-setting.” 

In one instance, OCDPHP worked with partners to create a tobacco use survey through which racial and ethnic groups were intentionally oversampled. This helped OCDPHP better understand details about the types of tobacco products people use — and develop specific targets and strategies to help reduce tobacco use among those populations. The effort revealed that young Hispanic adults reported using hookah as their preferred method to smoke tobacco. OCDPHP developed paid social media messages and other culturally tailored approaches to reach that population group, raising awareness of the dangers associated with hookah use. OCDPHP also strengthened its community outreach specific to young Hispanic adults — and worked with the business community to educate people and limit hookah use indoors.

Lessons learned

The OCDPHP team shares 4 tips for using data and target-setting to promote community health improvements.

Use transparent target-setting methods.

Shared targets promote community engagement. Setting clear goals that reflect the community’s needs and priorities — and specifically involving partners and community members in the process — promotes collaboration, informs activities, and creates opportunities for everyone to work toward a shared vision of better health for all.

Make data accessible for partners and communities.

OCDPHP found that when you make target-setting data accessible to the community, it encourages community members to use these tools and promotes engagement and consistency across different organizations’ health improvement efforts. Having a range of data dashboards freely available and easy to interpret on the health district’s website allows everyone to get the information they need to inform initiatives, measure progress, or use data to support grant applications for new programs. 

Work with partners across sectors to gather relevant data.

Sometimes the data required to address the community’s specific needs may not be available through national tools and databases. That’s when OCDPHP turns to partners, like local medical systems, the SNHD Office of Disease Surveillance and Control, and community organizations. Getting local data directly from the community can help garner valuable insight that can be used to evaluate and improve program quality and set specific goals to better address the needs of the population.

Use targets to support applications for funding.

OCDPHP consistently uses targets to demonstrate progress toward health improvement goals and uses that information to document progress and identify needs. Demonstrating evaluation efforts, progress, and a shared vision with one’s communities has helped OCDPHP successfully compete for federal grants in recent years, including securing funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Categories: Blog, Healthy People in Action