Developing a Community Profile
A community profile is a narrative that describes the community affected by the environmental contamination at a site. The profile summarizes community concerns and demographic information and identifies community leaders and organizations, social determinants of health, and other important characteristics of the affected community. Developing a community profile can help you understand the community and prepare for your public health work. Creating a community profile is an essential first step and can help you develop a community engagement plan further down the road.
Geographic Information System (GIS) experts are a great resource and can help you obtain important demographic information. To ensure the information is accurate, remember to provide the latitude and longitude of the street address at the environmental contamination site. If known, you can provide information such as an EPA ID number.
- Clearly define and map the boundaries, geographic or otherwise, of the community you are working with.
- Use a community profile worksheet or community data worksheet to keep track of the information you gather. (See resource: ATSDR Communication Toolkit: Community Data Worksheetpdf icon)
- Gather contact information for key agencies, community leaders, and stakeholders.
- Identify sources of community information that can add context and inform decision-making about your public health work. (See callout box: Getting the Data)
- Develop an inventory of existing community strengths, organizations, and resources that may be used to support your community engagement or public health work. This is also known as “asset-mapping.”
- Assess health equity, health disparities, environmental justice issues, and the needs of any identified special populations.
- Identify local facilities that may be good for hosting potential community meetings.
- Identify virtual platforms (e.g., Skype, Zoom, WebEx, etc.) that can be used to host meetings.
Take advantage of the amount of information that is readily available about the community. Review everything you can (e.g., publicly available community data, news articles, and local social media posts).
Remember that news and rumors travel fast, especially when a new agency enters a community. Build trust and credibility by working together with the community to develop a community engagement plan and list of stakeholders and state, territorial, local, and tribal (STLT) partners.
Do not assume you know everything there is to know about a community. Truly understanding a community requires time, effort, and an open mind.
Get as much information as you can to build a community profile. Remember, the information will help you better understand the community’s needs and plan community engagement activities. What you include in your profile will depend on the data you need and the resources you have. The profile should be updated as you learn more about the community. Use the ATSDR Community Data Worksheetpdf icon to help you understand the unique story of your community and identify gaps where community input and insight may be needed. (See resource: ATSDR Communication Toolkit: Community Data Worksheetpdf icon)
- ATSDR Communication Toolkit: Community Data Worksheetpdf icon (ATSDR). A ready-to-use worksheet to organize initial data gathering efforts
- CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index: SVI Interactive Map (CDC). An interactive map that applies CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to communities across the United States
- Map Roomexternal icon (University of Missouri). Free mapping and reporting tools that support data and case-making needs across sectors
- National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (CDC). A collection of non-infectious disease and environmental health data from a nationwide network of partners