Nursing: – Community needs assessment

Assessment of community health needs is critical for the determination of resources needed to provide relevant, effective, and efficient care to the community. According to Harvey (1994), community needs assessment refers to the delineation of the factors that are critical for improvement of a population’s health. While community needs assessment has been traditionally the responsibility of authorities addressing public health, nurses, especially community nurses, are increasingly being involved in community needs assessment due to their increasing involvement in the provision of care in community settings. Historically, the model for needs assessment in the community has been based on an epidemiological approach that involves the evaluation of mortality and morbidity data for various diseases. Increasingly, however, incorporation of the sociological perspective into the epidemiological approach has led to the development of a community-profile approach to needs assessment. In this approach, not only the epidemiology data  is considered, but also sociological data on inequality and deprivation that can highlight the reasons behind observed epidemiology data. Criticisms that the above two approaches to community needs assessment are focused on the provider/professional perspective has led to the introduction of a third perspective, consumer perspective, for community needs assessment. In this third perspective, emphasis is on community consultation and involvement in setting the health priorities. In this paper, the benefits and drawbacks of these three approaches are reviewed with examples of their application in a specific community.

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