Introduction: The residents of many Australian rural and remote communities do not have the essential infrastructure and services required to support healthy living conditions and community members choosing healthy lifestyle options. Improving these social determinants of health is seen to offer real opportunities to improve health among such disadvantaged populations. In this paper, we describe the development and trialling of a tool to measure, monitor and evaluate key social determinants of health at community level.
Methods: The tool was developed and piloted through a multi-phase and iterative process that involved a series of consultations with community members and key stakeholders and trialling the tool in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Results: The indicators were found to be robust, and by testing the tool on a number of different levels, face validity was confirmed. The scoring system was well understood and easily followed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous study participants. A facilitated small group process was found to reduce bias in scoring of indicators.
Conclusion: The Healthy Community Assessment Tool offers a useful vehicle and process to help those involved in planning, service provision and more generally promoting improvements in community social determinants of health. The tool offers many potential uses and benefits for those seeking to address inequities in the social determinants of health in remote communities. Maximum benefits in using the tool are likely to be gained with cross-sector involvement and when assessments are part of a continuous quality improvement program.