CHESS™ tool

Audit your environment

We use the CHESS™ tool as an innovative technique in our UK-based community-engagement programme. An app for Android tablet, the CHESS™ (Community Health Engagement Survey Solutions) tool was developed by public-health colleagues at the US-based social enterprise MATRIX Public Health Solutions.

Built on solid prevention-focused evidence and used originally for research, our colleagues discovered the unique potential of CHESS™ through a decade of testing. They determined that it was an excellent tool to collect quantitative data on certain aspects of the built environment (for example, streets, parks or shops) by engaging with often over-looked experts – the local community members.


The CHESS™ process

The CHESS™ process involves:

  • Providing training to community members on how to use the app
  • Identifying a focal point (i.e., school, business, community centre)
  • Identifying an area where local people may live, work or shop around that focal point to explore
  • Having community members walk their neighbourhood with a project manager to record what they see in answer to questions posed by the app (e.g., are healthy foods available for purchase?)

We can adapt the questions for each project based on input from the community about their needs. All questions serve to gather baseline data about the local community context, both the strengths that could be used to encourage a healthy lifestyle, and the barriers that discourage or prevent healthy living.

Using the app, we can ask questions about:

  • Food options (in shops, restaurants or from food vendors)
  • Prominence of tobacco and alcohol
  • Opportunities for physical activity indoors and outdoors
  • The condition of streets and public areas

We then aggregate the data collected by community members to inform our community-engagement programme.


Read about our past communities projects, why communities matter, and our current healthy communities project funded by Nestlé.