Community Needs Assessment
A Community Needs Assessment obtains and analyzes information that can determine the current status of a community, and prioritizes issues while identifying service gaps in the population you are studying. For a project to be successful, it needs to fulfill a need in the community. To make this work, it is best to have the community involved in every step of the development of the project. The community then has a vested interest in the project and involving the community creates a sense of ownership within the community, and they will want to see the project become a success too.
A needs assessment survey is generally created with the ultimate goal of creating an agenda to address perceived needs and concerns of members of a specific community. A community can be a group of individuals who share a commonality (race, health status, socioeconomic status, social issue, etc.). A community may be a combination of geographical boundaries and issues. To conduct an effective needs assessment, it is important that you are very specific on the community you wish to assess.
It is important to remember that professionals and consumers may have different views on what the community needs. As an organization and researcher, be aware of your assumptions and be prepared to find that the outcome of your needs assessment may change the focus and scope of your project.
Needs assessments can be done in various ways. They can be done through a mailer survey, personal interviews, or focus groups to name a few. The population you choose will likely determine the method you use. It is time consuming and can be expensive, but it is worth getting the opinions of those you wish to study and/or serve. Assessments should be quite short and involve very little effort on the part of the respondent. This increases the likelihood that your survey will be completed. If there are issues you wish to delve further into, you may choose to conduct focus groups to get a more detailed understanding of the subject in question. Don\x92t try to put too much detail in the survey, since you can use that survey to pinpoint areas where focus groups could be more useful.
Some resources for developing a community needs assessment:
Beadle de Palomo F, Luna E. The Needs Assessment: Tools for Long-Term Planning. In: MOSAICA: Center for Nonprofit Development and Pluralism. Washington, D.C.; 1999. Available at http://coach.aed.org [Accessed January 8, 2009].
University of Illinois Laboratory for Community and Economic Development
This is a website for the University of Illinois Extension. Their website provides practical, research-based information and programs for communities in Illinois. However, their website is rich in information on community assessments, planning, and leadership. Available at http://communitydevelopment.uiuc.edu.
Ohio State University Extension: Community and Organization Planning
The OSU Extension has some more local resources on Community Organizing and Planning. It is directed more toward community projects. Available at http://extension.osu.edu.
Researchers and Their Communities: The Challenge of Meaningful Community Engagement
This document offers a summary of the best practices emerging from a serious of national and regional workshops on community engagement over a 1 1/2 year period. These meetings were arranged through the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Consortium's Community Engagement Key Function Committee and the Workshop Planning Committee. Available at ctsaweb.org.
Identifying Your Target Population
Identifying your population is crucial in successful community-based research projects. It is important to identify a targeted population and to take into account all of the elements of their lives. Community-based research is founded on the idea that the community should have the major role in identifying the pertinent issues and problems that contribute to your identified area of research. The following resources can help you pinpoint populations with identified problems such as elevated rates of chronic diseases, poverty, and insurance status.
Greater Cleveland Local Health Info
ClevelandHealth.info is a resource designed to help community members locate and contribute health information for Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and surrounding areas. The website contains locally-informed health information resources. The resource incorporates the viewpoints of citizens, students, providers, and researchers alongside data, news and information. The idea behind this valuable resource is to increase the ability of visitors to effect positive changes for themselves and the whole community.
U.S. Census Bureau
National Cancer Information Services
The National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service provides the latest and most accurate cancer information to patients, their families, and health professionals.
NEOCANDO \x96 Case Western Reserve University, Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development
The Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development of the Case Western Reserve University Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences has developed a free and publicly available database that houses social and economic data for the Northeast Ohio region. NEO CANDO (Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing) also provides data on specific Cleveland neighborhoods as well.
A database of information that is updated continually through the Better Health Greater Cleveland alliance, this website has localized health information, services and statistics for Greater Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. There are news items, documents, links and data available on this user-friendly site.
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