Community In Action

Examples of programs, policies, and tools in action.

Community Engages in San Bernardino County, CA, Assessment

In San Bernardino County, CA, the Community Vital Signs initiative is a community-driven effort that uses data to set priorities for action to improve the health and wellness of the county. To understand the county’s needs and resources, the Community Vital Signs initiative pulled together 34 indicators on a range of issues including health, education, the economy, and the environment. To set priorities, they engaged community stakeholders to review the report and discuss where they should focus action.

San Bernardino County is the largest geographic county in the contiguous United States, covering more than 20,000 square miles of land and including 24 cities and towns with multiple unincorporated communities. The county’s population of more than two million is racially and ethnically diverse with the Hispanic population representing the largest single group (50%). Given the size and diversity of the community, initiative leaders knew one or two community meetings would not provide the level of engagement necessary to truly understand the community’s response to the data. 

Community Vital Signs conducted 23 community meetings and gathered input from more than 1,000 stakeholders—a rich mixture of professionals, community leaders, and residents. They held three types of meetings: a single county-wide community stakeholder summit, a meeting in each of the five county board supervisor’s districts, and 17 small engagement meetings with targeted groups to assure representation across all populations. For example, each of the five county supervisors hosted a meeting in their district and actively participated in dialog with community leaders. Additionally, Community Vital Signs staff provided training to individuals who facilitated special engagement meetings with groups such as the HIV Planning Council, the Mexican Consulate (with a special focus on Latino data), and the Vision of Hope (with a special focus on African American data). Watch a short video from the chair of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors here.

Each meeting included time for networking, a brief introduction to the 34 indicators, and small group sessions for stakeholders to discuss their reactions to the data and to select priorities for action. Nearly 300 partners attended a second community stakeholder summit for the unveiling of the seven priority areas resulting from the community meetings. These priority areas include: education, economy, access to health care, mental health, nutrition/access to healthy food, community safety, and safety at school. The summit served as call to action for the community along with a presentation of the County Health Rankings model to drive ongoing discussions at the community level to facilitate alignment of strategies and resources to improve wellness in the county. Slides from the summit are available here.

Over the next several months, the initiative will continue to reach out to community partners to assist in developing the unique community health improvement framework.

To learn more about the Community Vital Signs initiative, go to www.communityvitalsigns.org. The San Bernardino County: Our Community’s Vital Signs 2013 Final Report and 2013 Community Engagement Summary provide details about the data collected and community engagement phase. Visit or follow Community Vital Signs on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about what they are doing to improve health and wellness in San Bernardino County.

Communities in Action provide examples of strategies or tools in action. Their purpose is to connect like-minded communities in their implementation efforts, giving insight into how others are tackling key challenges and what they've accomplished.

Date added: March 26, 2014