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Accessible: People with and without disabilities are able to obtain and use. Breaking down barriers to access, whether caused by finances, culture, language, education, or ability.

Accountable Care Organizations: Groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers who come together voluntarily to give coordinated, high quality care to their Medicare patients. The goal of coordinated care is to ensure that patients, especially the chronically ill, get the right care at the right time, while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors.

Actionable: Easy to act on. Actionable information tells people what to do and how to do it.

Barriers to Care: Barriers to receiving needed health care can include cost, language or knowledge barriers, and structural or logistical factors, such as long waiting times, health insurance disparities and not having transportation. Barriers to care contribute to socioeconomic, racial and ethnic, and geographic differences in health care utilization and health status.

Basic Health Indicator:  A characteristic of an individual, population or environment which is subjected to measurement and can be used to describe one or more aspects of the health of an individual or population (quality, quantity and time). A health index comprises a number of indicators.

Best Practices: The best clinical or administrative practice or approach at the moment, given the situation, the consumer or community needs and desires, the evidence about what works for a particular situation and the resources available. Organizations often also use the term promising practices which may be defined as clinical or administrative practices for which there is considerable practice-based evidence or expert consensus which indicates promise in improving outcomes, but for which are not yet proven by strong scientific evidence.

Chronic Disease:  A disease that has one or more of the following characteristics: it is permanent, leaves residual disability, is caused by a nonreversible pathological alteration, requires special training of the patient for rehabilitation, or may be expected to require long period of supervision, observation, or care.

Cisgender, or “cis”: of, relating to, or being a person, whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.

Cluster Evaluation/Analysis:  A set of statistical methods used to group variables or observations into strongly inter-related subgroups. In epidemiology, it may be used to analyze a closely grouped series of events or cases of disease or other health-related phenomenon with well-defined distribution patterns in relation to time or place or both.

Coalition: A union of people and organizations working to influence outcomes on a specific problem. They involve multiple sectors of the community that come together to address community needs and solve community problems.

Collective Impact: Collective impact occurs when organizations from different sectors agree to solve a specific social problem using a common agenda, aligning their efforts, and using common measures of success.

Community:  A group of people who have common characteristics; communities can be defined by location, race, ethnicity, age, occupation, interest in particular problems or outcomes, or other similar common bonds.

Community-based:  An activity that involves members of the affected community in the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of programs and strategies.

Community Engagement: The process of working collaboratively with and through groups of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or similar situations to address issues affecting the well-being of those people

Community’s Health: The perspective on public health that regards “community” as an essential determinate of health and an indispensable ingredient for effective public health practice. It takes into account the tangible and intangible characteristics of the community, its formal and informal networks and support systems, its norms and cultural nuances, and its institutions, politics, and belief systems

Community Health Assessment: A systematic examination of the health status indicators for a given population that is used to identify key problems and assets in a community. The ultimate goal of a community health assessment is to develop strategies to address the community’s health needs and identified issues. A variety of tools and processed may be used to conduct a community health assessment; the essential ingredients are community engagement and collaborative participation.

Community Health Needs Assessment:  An assessment required under the Internal Revenue Code (IRS) by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The IRS requires hospital organizations to document compliance with CHNA requirements for each of their facilities in a written report.

Communications Strategies:  Statements or plans that describe a situation, audience, behavioral change objectives, strategic approach, key message points, media of communication, management and evaluation. Health departments may develop communications strategies to address a variety of situation for health communications, emergency response, or health education.

Compliance:  Cconformity in fulfilling official requirements.

Coordinated Care Organization (CCO):  A private or non-profit organization whose primary responsibility is the deliberate organization of patient care activities between two or more participants (including the patient) involved in a patient’s care to facilitate the appropriate delivery of health care services. Organizing care involves the marshalling of personnel and other resources needed to carry out all required patient care activities, and is often managed by the exchange of information among participants responsible for different aspects of care.

Cultural and Linguistic Competence: A set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations. ‘Culture’ refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups. ‘Competence’ implies having the capacity to function effectively as an individual and an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities.

Demographics:  Characteristic related data, such as size, growth, density, distribution, and vital statistics, which are used to study human populations.

Determinants of Health: Factors that influence the health status of an individual and/or a population are called determinants of health. They may be categorized in several groups such as the genetic or biological causes and predisposition of disease, mortality, or disability; the behavioral aspects of disease and illness (choices, lifestyle, etc.); the cultural, political, economic, and social aspects of disease and illness; the environmental aspects of disease and illness; the policy aspects of disease and illness; and the individual and response to all of the above.

Digital literacy includes the following knowledge and skills: The ethical values and sense of community responsibility to use digital devices for the enjoyment and benefit of society.

  • Competency with digital devices of all types, including cameras, eReaders, smart phones, computers, tablets, video games, and so forth. This does not mean that one can pick up a new device and use that device without an orientation. Rather, one can, using trial and error as well as a manufacturer’s manual, determine how to effectively use a device.
  • The technical skills to operate these devices as well as the conceptual knowledge to understand their functionality.
  • The ability to creatively and critically use these devices to access, manipulate, evaluate, and apply data, information, knowledge and wisdom in activities of daily living.
  • The ability to apply basic emotional intelligence in collaborating and communicating with others

Due diligence: the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or their property.

Epidemiology:  The study of the distribution and determinants of health conditions or events among populations and the application of that study to control health problems.

Evidence-based Practice:  M decisions on the basis of the best available scientific evidence, using data and information systems systematically, applying program-planning frameworks, engaging the community in decision making, conducting sound evaluation, and disseminating what is learned.

Functional literacy:  Skills that allow an individual to read consent forms, medicine labels, and health care information and to understand written and oral information given by physicians, nurses, pharmacists, or other health care professionals and to act on directions by taking medication correctly, adhering to self-care at home, and keeping appointment schedules.

Gender identity: the personal sense of one’s own gender. Gender identity can correlate with assigned sex at birth or can differ from it.

Health Communication:  Informing, influencing, and motivating individual, institutional, and public audiences about important health or public health issues. Health communication includes disease prevention, health promotion, health care policy, and the business of health care, as well as enhancement of the quality of life and health of individuals within a community. Health communication deals with how information is perceived, combined, and used to make decisions.

Health Disparities:  The differences in population health status (incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of adverse health conditions) that can result from environmental, social and/or economic conditions, as well as public policy. These differences exist among specific population groups in the United States and are often preventable.

Health Equity:  The attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and healthcare disparities.

Health Inequity: Referring to differences in population health status and mortality rates that are systemic, patterned, unfair, unjust, and actionable, as opposed to random or caused by those who become ill.

Health Information Exchange (HIE):  A health information exchange is a system to facilitate electronic access to patient-level health information across organizations within a region, community, or health care system. A health information exchange allows clinical information to be shared among disparate health care information systems while maintain the meaning of the information being exchanged, using nationally recognized standards.

Health Insurance Literacy: Measuring the degree to which individuals have the knowledge, ability, and confidence to find and evaluate information about health plans, select the best plan for their financial and health circumstances, and use the plan once enrolled.

Health Policy:  Social policy concerned with the process whereby public health agencies evaluate and determine health needs and the best way to address them, including the identification of appropriate resources and funding mechanisms.

Health Promotion: The process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behaviors toward a wide range of social and environmental interventions.

Healthy Community: A place where people provide leadership in assessing their own resources and needs, where public health and social infrastructure and policies support health, and where essential public health services, including quality health care, are available. In a healthy community, communication and collaboration among various sectors of the community and the contributions of ethnically, socially, and economically diverse community members are valued.

Health Education: Health education is the science and practice of improving the health of all people through education and intervention. Health educators encourage healthy lifestyles and wellness by increasing knowledge, developing skills, and advocating for policies that promote individual and community health.

Health Literacy: Health literacy is a person’s ability to understand and use health information. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines health literacy as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand the basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.

Infectious Disease: A disease caused by the entrance into the body of organisms (such as bacteria, protozoans, fungi, or viruses) that grow and multiply there, often used synonymously with communicable disease.

Intervention: A generic term used in public health to describe a program or policy designed to have an impact on a health problem. For example, a mandatory seat belt law is an intervention designed to reduce the incidence of automobile-related fatalities. Five categories of health interventions are: (1) health promotion, (2) specific protection, (3) early case finding and prompt treatment, (4) disability limitation, and (5) rehabilitation.

Mandated Public Health Services: Required by statute, rule/regulation, ordinance or other similar legally binding process.

Media Advocacy:  A set of processes by which individuals or groups in the community define, identify, and frame a problem and stimulate media coverage of the problem as a public health issue to help stimulate widespread public concern and action.

Midlevel Provider:  An individual practitioner, other than a physician, dentist, veterinarian, or podiatrist, who is licensed, registered, or otherwise permitted by the United States or the jurisdiction in which he/she practices, to dispense a controlled substance in the course of professional practice. Examples of mid-level practitioners typically include, but are not limited to, health care providers such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists and physician assistants but there are other disciplines that states may also recognize in this category.

National Prevention Strategy: Includes actions that public and private partners can take to help Americans stay healthy and fit and improve our nation’s prosperity. The strategy outlines four strategic directions are fundamental to improving the nation’s health. Those four strategic directions include building healthy and safe community environments, expanding quality preventive services, empowering people to make healthy choices, and eliminating health disparities.

Non-infectious/Non-communicable Disease: Conditions which affect the health status of populations, but which are not transmitted from one individual to another by micro-organisms. Non-communicable diseases represent the major causes of death and disability in most developed countries.

Organizational Health Literacy: The approaches that organizations and professionals implement to help people find, process, understand, and decide on health information and services.

Patient Engagement: An organization’s strategy to get patients involved in actively and knowledgeably managing their own health and wellness and that of family members and others for whom they have responsibility. This includes reviewing and managing care records, learning about conditions, adopting healthy behaviors, making informed healthcare purchases and interacting with care providers as a partner.

Patient literacy: Refers to the combination and levels of each type of literacy as they are synthesized and expressed by an individual, family, group or community within their activities of daily living including the management of their health.

Patient Messaging (consumer messaging): Delivering health messages directly to members of your target audience. For example, messaging could include sending actionable alerts to patients highlighting opportunities to improve health or get preventive care. Messages can be delivered via email, text message, Explanation of Benefit (EOB) forms, or other communication channels that reach consumers directly. Ideally, consumer messages are tailored to the recipient’s age, gender, or health status; the more tailored your message is, the more effective it will be.

Public Health: The science and practice of promoting health and preventing disease on a community or population level.

Plain Language (or clear writing): A way of writing and presenting information so that readers with at least a fourth grade reading level can understand quickly and easily.

Plain language documents are:

  • Relevant to the reader
  • Clear and concise
  • Easy to follow
  • Conversational and direct
  • Designed to be inviting and help readers find important information

Population-based Approach: An approach that targets a population as the subject instead of the individual.

Population Health:  Population health is a cohesive, integrated and comprehensive approach to health considering the distribution of health outcomes within a population, the health determinants that influence the distribution of care, and the policies and interventions that impact and are impacted by the determinants.

Prevention:  Primary prevention consists of strategies that seek to prevent the occurrence of disease or injury, generally through reducing exposure or risk factor levels. These strategies can reduce or eliminate causative risk factors (risk reduction). Secondary prevention consists of strategies that seek to identify and control disease processes in their early stages before signs and symptoms develop (screening and treatment). Tertiary prevention consists of strategies that prevent disability by restoring individuals to their optimal level of functioning after a disease or injury is established.

Primary Care:  Primary care is basic or general health care focused on the point at which a patient ideally first seeks assistance from the health care system.

Promising Practice:  Promising practice is defined as a practice with at least preliminary evidence of effectiveness in small- scale interventions or for which there is potential for generating data that will be useful for making decisions about taking the intervention to scale and generalizing the results to diverse populations and settings.

Public Health Nutrition: The promotion of good health and the prevention of illness in the population through nutrition and physical activity.

Readability: The ease with which a written text can be read. Typical readability formulas calculate the number of syllables in a word and the number of words in a sentence. Readability tests do not measure or predict how well your intended audience will understand the material.

Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOS): A regional health information organization (RHIO) is a type of health information exchange organization (HIO) that brings together health care stakeholders within a defined geographic area and governs health information exchange among them for the purpose of improving health and care in that community.

Risk Assessment:  A process used to formally assess the potential harm due to a hazard taking into account factors such as likelihood, timing, and duration of exposure.

Safe injection facility: facilities that allow people to consume pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of trained staff and are designed to reduce the health and public order issues often associated with public drug consumption.

Screening:  Examination or testing of a group of individuals to separate those who are well from those who have an undiagnosed disease or defect or who are at high risk.

Secondary Data: Those data which have been collected in the past, collected by other parties, or result from combining data or information from existing sources.

Self-efficacy: A person’s assessment or belief about her ability to succeed in accomplishing a task. Self-efficacy can be an important predictor of behavior. Breaking behaviors into smaller, more realistic steps can help increase self-efficacy.

SHINE Program: (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone) is a state health insurance assistance program that provides to Massachusetts residents of any age who have Medicare free health insurance information, counseling and assistance to Massachusetts residents with Medicare and their caregivers.

Social Determinants of Health: The conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries.

Socioeconomic Status: A complex phenomenon often based on indicators of relationships to work (occupational position or ranking), social class or status, and access to power.

Stakeholder: All persons, agencies and organizations with an investment or ‘stake’ in the health of the community and the local public health system. This broad definition includes persons and organizations that benefit from and/or participate in the delivery of services that promote the public’s health and overall well-being.

Statutory Authority: An organization that is required by law to provide public services and receive central or local government funding, for example health authorities and local authorities.

Super Health Agency: An agency that oversees public health and primary care, as well as the state Medicaid program.

Trend Analysis: A study design which focuses on overall patterns of change in an indicator over time, comparing one time period with another time period for that indicator. Trend analysis is not used to determine causation; rather associations can be drawn. Trend analysis is commonly used in program evaluation, for policy analysis, and for etiologic analysis

Umbrella Agency: An agency that oversees public health and primary care, substance abuse and mental health, the Medicaid program, and other human services programs. (National Governors Association.

Usability: Measures the quality of a user’s experience when interacting with a Web site or product. Usability is a term to describe how easy a Web site is to use. Usability is determined by 2 broad questions: how well can users accomplish their goals on your Web site, and how satisfied are they with the process? Usability is typically measured with a technique called usability testing.

Vulnerable Population:  A group of people with certain characteristics that cause them to be at greater risk of having poor health outcomes than the general population. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, age, culture, disability, education, ethnicity, health insurance, housing status, income, mental health, and race.


AAC – Alternative and Augmentative Communication

AAR: After Action Report

ABCD: Asset Based Community Development

ABH: Association for Behavioral Health

AC: Accreditation Coordinator

ACO: Accountable Care Organization

ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act

AD/HD Attention –Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

ADL: Activities of daily living

APEX-EH: Assessment Protocol for Excellence in Environmental Health

APEXPH: Assessment Protocol for Excellence in Public Health

APHA:   American Public Health Association

ASTHO: Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

BIP: Behavioral Intervention Plan

BPHC: Boston Public Health Commission

CBPR: Community-based Participatory Research

CCO: Coordinated Care Organization

CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CHR: Community Health Representative

CHS: Contract Health Services

CHW: Community Health Worker

CLAS: Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services

CLCPA: Cultural and Linguistic Competence Policy Assessment

CLPH: Coalition for Local Public Health

CMS: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

CQ: Continuous Quality Improvement

DD: Developmental Disability or Delay

DDS: Department of Developmental Services

DHHS: US Department of Health and Human Services

DPH: Department of Public Health

EMS: Emergency Medical Services

EPA: Environmental Protection Agency

ERP: Emergency Response Plan

FDA: Food and Drug Administration

HAN: Health Alert Network

HIE: Health Information Exchange

HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

IDD: Intellectual/Developmental Disability

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

MAHB: Massachusetts Association of Health Boards

MCH: Maternal and Child Health

MEHA: Massachusetts Environmental Health Association

MHOA: Massachusetts Health Officers Association

MPHA: Massachusetts Public Health Association

NACCHC: National Association of County and City Health Officials

NALBOH: National Association of Local Boards of Health

NCD: Non-communicable disease

NIH: National Institutes of Health

OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration

SMRT: State Medical Review Team

WIC: Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children