Research articles – community assessment

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Personal Observation
Use your eyes, ears, nose, hands, and body to inspect, auscultate, palpate, and percuss the community:
Eyes. What do you see? Describe the people, what they are doing, and the environment.
Nose. Smell the environment. Is it pleasant, polluted, fresh, or stale?
Ears. Is the community noisy or quiet? Are the people talking to one another?
Palpate and percuss. What is the feeling of the community? Is it warm, open, and friendly, or is it cold, hostile, and suspicious?

Existing Data Sources: Secondary Data
National Sources:
The National Center for Health Statistics, a federal agency established to collect and disseminate data about the health of U.S. residents, conducts the National Health Interview Survey.
The United States Government Manual is a good reference for information about federal programs and agencies that have health data.
The U.S. Census Bureau collects information on the demographic characteristics (age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic level, marital status, educational level, and housing) of the U.S. population every 10 years
Many special interest groups collect and publish data about their particular group. For example, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and MADD have publications that provide useful information about their respective topics and the aggregate characteristics

Existing Data Sources: Secondary Data
State and Local Sources:
Local and state health departments collect and disseminate information about the vital statistics in their localities.
County and city planning and zoning boards often have current demographic data and a list of many resources.
Health department websites, agency records, libraries, business people, the clergy, telephone books, and service directories are additional sources of information.
Surveys:
If you cannot locate sources of data for the community under study, you may need to develop a survey to obtain needed information.
The purpose of a survey might be to collect demographic data, obtain information on assets and problems, conduct a needs assessment, identify utilization patterns of services and facilities, or determine health interests of community members.

Existing Data Sources: Secondary Data
Interviews with Key Informants:
Interviews with key informants—people in the community and leaders of the community—are valuable sources of data.
Interviews may be open ended in which the interviewer starts by asking a few broad questions.
Interviews also may be highly structured, using formal surveys.
Meetings with Community Groups:
Community forums are regular or special public meetings that provide an opportunity to obtain input from members of the community regarding their opinions about needs, services, or specific health-related topics.
Focus groups are conversations held in a group with a small number of people (usually 5 to 10) to identify different perceptions and experiences about a subject (Polit & Beck, 2010).

Geographical Information Systems
Geographical information systems (GIS) are computer-based programs used to store and statistically manipulate geographical and location-based data to provide visual maps.
Traditionally, public health professionals plotted communicable disease outbreaks on wall maps; these could be overlaid with transparent sheets to show changes in cases over time.
Data can include demographics, morbidity and mortality, cases of communicable diseases, reported health behaviors, housing types, distribution of health facilities and services, and sources of environmental exposures, among others.
This assists public health practitioners to analyze health disparities, disease outbreaks, availability and use of resources, and the relationship of environmental exposures with health problems

Approaches to community assessment
Comprehensive Needs Assessment Approach:
Comprehensive needs assessment is the most thorough assessment of the community; it is also the most traditional and the most time consuming.
In the comprehensive approach, the nurse begins with the total community (geopolitical or phenomenological) and uses a systematic process to assess all aspects of the community to identify or validate actual and potential health problems.
Problem-Oriented Approach.
Single Population Approach:
In the single population approach, the community/public health nurse assesses one population in a community (e.g., women of reproductive age, teenagers, homeless persons, migrants).
The nurse begins the process with defining the population and then assesses the population in a specific community.
Familiarization Approach: Nurse have information of community.

Analysis
When applying a systems analysis to the data, three parameters are used to make inferences about the level of health:
Congruency must exist among the physical, psychological, and social data and imperatives.
The community requires a minimum amount of energy to function (efficiency).
The health status behaviors must be satisfying to the population and the community
Through analysis of the relationships between the component parts of a community system and its external environment (suprasystem), the health status of the community may be determined; its strengths, assets, and health needs identified; priorities established; and programs planned and implemented.

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