What is a Community Needs Assessment?
The benefits of a Community Needs Assessment are many and the implementation process is easy to do. An assessment does not mean you are going to start handing out community health checks to every visitor that walks through your front door. It is about looking at the needs in your community and getting your staff to evaluate those needs. A health assessment will give you the opportunity to see where the greatest health disparity exists and how you can improve that area. It is an important step because health disparity affects everyone in the community and creates health problems that can’t always be addressed by health care professionals.
The health needs of the patient coming into your consulting room door might not reflect the overall health needs of your community as a whole. If individuals have a health issue that they feel cannot be effectively handled by your primary health care service, they likely will not go through the door to see what your primary care has to offer. A health need assessment will help identify those individuals who are at the greatest risk for contracting an illness or becoming sick. It can also help identify those individuals who have a higher probability of contracting a disease that is known to be common in your community. By examining your local population’s health needs, you can ensure that the people who live there have access to the health care they need.
Health Equity: Another important factor to examine in your needs assessment is your overall health equity. What happens next? Do you have groups of people with similar health conditions who face the greatest health disparities? Do you have people who live in poverty and have the highest percentage of overweight and obese individuals? Do you have people who have the least health insurance of any of the groups studied?
Development of an assessment includes the review of community health services programs. These programs often differ from neighborhood to neighborhood, so you will want to make sure that you identify which community health needs you to wish to address. Your assessment will provide you with a framework to work with health authorities to develop a plan of action and how to implement the plan once it is developed.
Once you have your health services framework reviewed and you have developed an assessment, the next step in developing a plan of action is to develop a targeted implementation strategy. The specific components of your strategy will be dependent on the individual facts examined in your health needs assessment. For example, if you found that a large number of residents in one neighborhood are extremely obese, you may choose to conduct a walk-through in that neighborhood. You can find sample components of a walk-through or you can request that a consultant go out and develop a comprehensive component plan of attack based on the findings of your needs assessment. This is a critical part of commissioning an analysis because if the implementation plan is not developed with the specifics you determined in your assessment, then you will find that implementing the plan will be extremely difficult.