The United Way of the Laurel Highlands, 1889 Foundation, Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, Vision 2025, and Center for Population Health (CPH) hosted the annual Cambria/Somerset Community Health and Human Services Summit on August 17, 2023 at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Living Learning Center. Representatives from Health and Human Service agencies in the two-county region were invited to attend.

“We are excited, along with our community partners, to host the Health and Human Services Summit again this year,” said CPH Executive Director Jeannine McMillan. “The poverty simulation, afternoon presentations and breakout sessions allow our health and human service agency leaders to discuss successes and challenges over the past year and, most importantly, seek to develop collaborative solutions to improve the health of our communities.”

A Summit was last held in August, 2022 to share the results of the updated Community Health Needs Assessment. A community health needs assessment (CHNA) is a systematic process involving the community to identify and analyze community health needs. It uses comprehensive data collection and analysis to determine the key health issues and priorities in a state, tribal, local, or territorial area. The process provides a way for communities to plan and act upon unmet community health needs.

Seven areas were identified as priority health needs for the community to focus on and develop action plans to address over three years, which include Mental/Behavioral Health, Social Determinant of Health Needs, Physical Health, Substance Use, Socioeconomics/Job Training, Early Childhood and Violence/Abuse/Safety.

The August 17 Summit began in the morning with a Poverty Simulation, coordinated by Southwest PA AHEC. A Poverty Simulation is an interactive immersive experience that will sensitize community participants to the realities of poverty. Over the course of the simulation, participants will be confronted with a series of challenges that mimic the complex, everyday obstacles that millions of men and women are forced to grapple with. It is not a game but based on real life experiences. The simulation helps build empathy for families living in extreme poverty and prompts strategic thinking about effective responses.

The afternoon session provided time for agencies to share updates on new and innovative programs launched over the past year to address the seven priority health needs. Breakout sessions also allowed time for organizations to discuss additional focus areas they see as opportunities to improve the health of our communities.

The full 2022 CHNA report, as well as a two-page summary of the findings, can be found by visiting

Visit ‘Empathy and understanding’: Health summit spotlights life in poverty | News | for a firsthand look at the day.