A community needs assessment is a vital process in the planning and promotion of health strategies and care in the community, and this process includes analysing and identifying key health problems in the community . A needs assessment also determines the target group in which the purpose of the health strategy is aimed at.
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Community needs assessments can take many unique forms, however all community needs assessments are aimed to seek information on the different types of needs of the community which includes gathering information from the community based on the individuals in the community and their personal opinions, their felt, normative and expressed needs, as well as challenges and community assets, which can determine the ability in meeting the needs of the health promotion strategy to be implemented.
The purpose of a community needs assessment is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the community and the ability in which the community can and will respond to health promotion strategies and planning .
Different types of needs in a community needs assessment
The definition for a need is anything one can not do without it , however in a health care setting and in a community needs assessment there are different types of needs which should be assessed in order to determine the different types of needs which are being met and which are not . There are four different types of needs in a health care setting which have very different aspects which include:
A normative need refers to what is expected to be the norm for the community based on expert opinion which is based on research. ,
An expressed need refers to what can be suggested about the health need of a community by observing the community¿½s use of health services . Expressed needs can be expressed via requests, complaints, petitions or by observation through the use of available services however expressed needs can be misinterpreted, for example long waiting lists at a hospital may be the result of lack of training of the health professional rather than the length of the waiting list and the people seeking treatment .
Comparative need is determining the need for one area of the community based on the services used within a separate area . Comparative need may be used for a general idea of the services needed in another community without collecting data by observing a similar size community. One of the most common uses of gathering data via comparative need is determining the possible social problems which can exist in another similar area such as alcohol abuse.
Felt need refers to what individuals in the communities which they say, feel, or desire that they need . When assessing and gathering data on felt needs of the community, it¿½s important to understand that there are many obstacles which can distort the data as the felt need of an individual is not always expressed in terms of a need but more of a solution , as well as an individual may be expressing their felt need based on a family member and not themselves.
What data is sought in a community needs assessment and why
The description, perceptions and ideas of the community and applicable statistics which are needed in order to develop an action plan based on the community needs assessment include: the size of the population, demographic make up, religious beliefs, cultural attitudes and the roles of individuals in the community . This information is valuable as it can affect the roles which the community takes in promoting the health strategies such as male or female nurses in treating an individual, and can evaluate whether the community is open minded to the solutions which are proposed to be implemented.
Needs identified by community leaders and members are gained through surveys and other various methods, as this data can indicate whether there will be local support for the community programs to be implemented. Without support from local community leaders and members it will be difficult gaining support from the rest of the community therefore educating key profile members in the community are a valuable asset to promoting a community assessment .
The current strategy being taken to meet community needs determines the additional action that needs to be taken in order to meet the needs of the community as shown from the expressed, felt and comparative needs. Current action from the community includes existing health promotion programs, government support and funding, organizational support and infrastructure, as well as the current coping of the community with the programs in place. This information based on the current actions can provide valuable feedback in assessing whether the current programs are having any affect on the community, and the extent to how efficient the programs are .
Local resources available to help meet community needs can include availability of individuals to provide feedback and support for the community needs assessment. The ability to consult the community and individuals plays a vital role in evaluating the needs of the community .
Financial resources of the community also play a major role in the development of an action plan based on a community needs assessment therefore considering the availability of local resources in a community can affect the development of health promotion strategies. Long term sustainability of the strategy by the community is determined by evaluating the socioeconomic status of the community as well as the available resources .
Another question which is asked when gathering data from a community needs assessment is whether the needed services are available and are they accessible by the individuals in the community. Examples of whether services are accessible by the community include the opening hours of the services as many people who need the services may work while the services are open therefore alternative opening hours may need to be considered .
How data is obtained for a community needs assessment
When performing interviews in the community for a community needs assessment it¿½s important to gather information from people who are in a position to know the needs of the community such as community leaders, health and other professionals, as well as other individuals who may be affiliate with particular organizations or agencies which may be involved in the planning or promotion of the community development .
The issue with only consulting health promotion professionals is that they may not be aware of some of the health problems and situations due to the socioeconomic status of the individual or the interests of the individual therefore it may be beneficial to interview individuals who are in the situation in which the community needs assessment is evaluating therefore its valuable to interview different individuals in different positions within the community .
Research via census data can provide valuable information based on another community which may present similar problems in the community being assessed . Data can be retrieved from the World Health Organization, Australian Bureau of Statistics and data from other communities.
A survey can determine the occurrence of the use of services within the community and gather valuable information based on felt needs of an individual . Surveys can be distributed and gathered in many different forms and methods included handing out at the street, windscreen survey, posting to family¿½s in the mail as well as inserting in the local paper or magazine however many individuals will not provide feedback using this method due to the effort required, however it can give a general idea on the community needs.
Focus groups involve selecting a small targeted group from the community in order to provide options to the individuals and gather specific feedback. The advantages of a focus group includes: specific and valuable information from a targeted group of individuals, real-time feedback, felt need information, and individual perceptions of community needs .
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Disadvantages of focus groups include but are not limited to a small sample of the community in which there may be individuals in the focus group which may not be interested in the issues being discussed, some individuals may find it harder to communicate in large groups and would prefer to discuss their opinions in another discrete format, focus groups are not specific to finding out facts but more opinions .
Community forums are a great way to gain support from the community on the health promotion strategies which are being considered. Community forums involve including the community on the current issues to consult the individuals based on their needs and to ensure that each individual is heard on the current issues and the community needs which are being considered .
The advantage of a community forum include involving the entire community in the upcoming decisions which are to be implemented in the community, however the disadvantage is a community forum is a very involving and time consuming process therefore support from the community is needed in order for a successful community forum to ensue.
The principles that underpin the steps involved in the process undertaking a CNA.
Community assessment should be an integral part of health promotion work (Talbot & Verrinder. 2010).
An important role in health needs assessment is gathering information from local people about their views on their health needs as well as resources which are available to the individual which allows for any services that may be developed to be based around the needs of individuals and will be more likely to be acceptable by the community .
It¿½s important to realize the value of gaining knowledge from the local population within a community based on what the community has in terms of assets which exist, factors in which individuals believe their health is affected, as well as what is most important within the community to the individual. .
Community assessment should reflect social view of health (Talbot & Verrinder. 2010).
Understanding the contribution made by social factors rather than seeing health as simply as medical problem or an individual responsibility introduces a diverse concept in which society plays a role in the development of communities. A social view of health allows for different understandings and a diversity of meaning of the health care model, and allows the recognition of the right of each person to improve their own level of health .
Community assessment should involve both formal and informal assessment of needs and resources or assets (Talbot & Verrinder. 2010).
Formal assessment of needs can determine how effective services are to the community and how much of the population is reached with the services provided within the community. Formal assessments are a tool for diagnosing and assessing the accountability of the services that are offered within the community and can be assessed accurately using formal gathering of data .
Informal assessments of needs can provide quick and valuable information from an individual in the community based on services they have used and the effectiveness of the services. Informal data collection can provide information needed in order to make quick changes to the health care planning process .
Community assessment should recognize the partnership between people, themselves and health workers in determining their needs and resources, planning action and evaluating any outcomes (Talbot & Verrinder. 2010).
When people feel involved in developing a local health care strategy, they will feel more committed to putting the plan into action therefore it is important that all of the community is involved in the planning and assessment of a community needs assessment .
A nurse should be involved with not only other health professionals but the local community as involving individuals in the planning process involves them in the decisions which will affect their community.
Needs assessment should involve a combination of felt, expressed, normative and comparative need. (Talbot & Verrinder. 2010)
The concept of ¿½need¿½ used in a community needs assessment incorporates those needs which are felt and expressed by local people within the community, as well as an assessment of needs which have been researched and defined by professionals. A needs assessment which considers all types of needs is beneficial to think outside the box rather than simply focusing on demand .
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