The Founding of HARC

The Coachella Valley is a unique community within Riverside County in Inland Southern California. As such, local organizations found that County-level data, while available, did not adequately tell the story of the health needs of those living in the Coachella Valley. Service providers in the Coachella Valley struggled for years to identify health disparities, inequities, unhealthy behaviors and trends. Under the umbrella of the Desert Healthcare Foundation, and with financial support from the California Wellness Foundation, HARC was formed in 2006 to fill this gap and provide objective, reliable Coachella Valley-specific data.

HARC’s Coachella Valley Community Health Survey

With the support of the Desert Healthcare Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation, and the Regional Access Project Foundation, HARC was able to conduct the first survey of health in the region, provided by a random-digit-dial telephone survey. This survey provided vital information about health and quality of life in the region, and covered topics such as health care access, utilization, health behaviors, major disease, mental health, and more. The first survey was conducted in 2007, and results were provided to the community in early 2008. It was determined that the survey would be repeated every three years in order to measure progress and provide up-to-date data. As such, the survey is adapted by community stakeholders, revised, and conducted every three years. Results are provided back to the community in the form of a written Executive Report, an online searchable database, and special reports and data briefs on a variety of focused health issues.

The data provided by this Coachella Valley Community Health Survey is used by nonprofits, hospitals, higher education, K-12 education, governmental agencies, and media organizations, among others. These organizations use the data to apply for funding, create presentations/lectures, prioritizing health needs, developing programs to address those needs, writing articles, designing and conducting trainings, and making/changing policy.

Most notable among these is the way in which HARC’s objective, reliable Coachella Valley data has strengthened nonprofits’ requests for funding. In the past five years, over 25 local organizations have used HARC’s data to strengthen their funding requests, and have been able to obtain over $12.8 million for critically needed programs and services.  This funding provided the resources for many important services, including free HIV tests, meal delivery for home-bound seniors, transportation for people with disabilities, and much more.

HARC’s Consulting Services

In 2009, HARC branched out from the Coachella Valley Community Health Survey and began to offer customized research and evaluation services for other organizations. Through these services, HARC shares the advanced expertise of their researchers with organizations who otherwise would go without reliable data. These services include program evaluation, needs assessments, data analysis, workplace wellness services, and much more. In 2009, HARC began offering these services with a single client. In 2010, this expanded to 5 clients, and then doubled to 10 in 2011. This trend continued, such that in calendar year 2014 HARC had 18 active clients.

HARC’s expertise lies in the social determinants of health; that is, the idea that where you live, work, learn, and play has a strong impact on your well-being and quality of life. The social determinants of health encompass things like economic security, education, safety, community cohesion, neighborhoods and the built environment, and of course, healthcare.

Because of this expertise, HARC’s work spans many diverse fields, all with the common theme of improving lives. For example, HARC conducted a community health needs assessment of the LGBT community in the Coachella Valley to identify their needs for programs and services. HARC’s evaluation of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley’s “Healthy Habits” program allowed them to demonstrate the success of their program and obtain funding to continue the program. ACT for MS had great data on hand about how their programs help people with multiple sclerosis, but did not have the expertise to turn it into actionable information until HARC analyzed it and created a report describing their program’s effectiveness. HARC has served clients from coast to coast, assisting with projects big and small.

As key members of the local health community, HARC staff have given numerous invited presentations to educate the community, including events such as the Inland Empire Healthy Cities Symposium, California State University’s Disadvantaged Communities Center Conference, and the Coachella Valley Health Collaborative’s Mental Health Summits, among others.

HARC’s data have been used to publish multiple scholarly articles, and HARC is currently collaborating with two institutions of higher education to publish additional articles.