Needs Assessment

Chris Lovato

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Needs Assessment

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At the most basic level, needs assessment is about identifying the gap between “what is” and “what should be.” The needs assessment process is used to set priorities for programs and allocation of resources. It is based on the assumption that a given community or population will have more needs than can be met with existing resources, and setting priorities is critical. Although much of the literature on needs assessment focuses on identifying needs, it is important to recognize that a comprehensive approach includes conducting a capacity assessment. This involves identifying assets within the community that will support efforts to address needs. While the very definition of a needs assessment emphasizes the use of an objective approach to identifying needs, it must be acknowledged that it is also a subjective and political process. For example, who is consulted to identify needs? Whose needs are they? How are “needs” defined? Who judges the importance of needs? How do we account for cultural differences? Needs assessment is one of the first steps involved in planning a program. Although there are a variety of approaches described in the literature, models for needs assessment involve a systematic process that includes focusing the study, collecting and analyzing data, identifying areas of need, setting priorities, identifying solutions, and evaluating the needs assessment. Common themes associated with a successful process are highlighted in various models of needs assessment: (1) engaging stakeholders to participate and inform the process, (2) using multiple methods to collect data (e.g., surveys, existing records, interviews, observation), and (3) setting priorities. Many authors affirm that needs assessment should be an ongoing and continuous process since communities and the environment in which they exist are constantly evolving.

Article.  3599 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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