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Prepare to assess

As you prepare to Assess, consider why, what, who and how.

WHY: Why assess needs and resources?

As you begin an assessment of your community’s health, be clear about your goals. For example, your community can use an assessment to:

  • Identify differences in opportunities and outcomes.
  • Guide your efforts to address areas of greatest need.
  • Identify and make the most of existing assets and resources.
  • Secure additional funding for your work.
  • Meet federal, state, or local requirements.

Nonprofit hospitals and many public health departments are required to assess their communities on a regular basis. These assessments often follow specific assessment requirements. Work with partners to align any assessment requirements at the beginning of your process.

WHAT: What does community mean to you?

You may define your community by:

  • Geography such as neighborhood, city, county, or hospital catchment area.
  • A specific priority population such as immigrant communities or those facing inequities.

Depending on how your define your community, you may need to collect your own data to assess your community’s needs and opportunities

WHO: Who will be involved?

Your assessment is an opportunity build trust and ownership within the community. Make a plan for engaging the community so all voices can be heard. What is your goal for involving the community? What is your commitment to those you engage?

The International Association for Public Participation’s Spectrum can help you define the public’s role in your efforts. Thinking about this now can help ensure your engagement is meaningful, which is key to understanding the full range of needs and opportunities for good health.

We like the strategies for gathering community input included in Rotary International’s Community Assessment Tools. This is a go-to resource for trying to decide which strategy to use to gather input and how to implement that strategy.

HOW: How will you conduct your assessment efforts?

The remaining Key Activities in this step are dedicated to the work of assessing your community from generating questions to collecting data to sharing your results. Here we’ll focus on where to start and where to next.

Where to start. You can often find and build off of existing data. Start by checking out assessments or studies conducted by:

  • Local or state government agencies, such as planning or public health departments.
  • Healthcare organizations, such as non-profit hospitals or Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  • Other partners such as Community Development Corporations, Community Action Programs, University Extension programs, Chambers of Commerce, and non-profit organizations.

WORK TOGETHER NOTE: If you haven’t already reached out to these organizations, this is an opportune time to connect. Could you share data? Collaborate on the process? Partner on the action your assessment will drive?

Where to next

  • What other information will you need to know?
  • How will you get that information?
  • Who will collect the data?
  • Who will analyze the data? How?
  • Create your timeline.