Public Health Community Health Assessment
by
Norma Kanarek
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0057

Introduction

Community health assessment began as a key job role for health administrators, was included in an essential function of public health, and is now a certification element for health departments today. Community health assessment utilizes descriptive epidemiology, conceptual disease frameworks, and information about the uptake of known effective public health interventions and services to convey an understanding of a population’s health and well-being relative to what could be expected—a target, a “best achievable,” or a comparable group encapsulated by the state, the nation, or a group of geographic entities sharing similar factors and perhaps similar population health fates. A seminal work on community health assessment is oriented to execution of health promotion and risk reduction by using behavioral science methods. Community diagnosis is another way of characterizing community health assessment, the community as patient seeking a public health judgment in order to function optimally, undergo treatment, heal, and thrive. This bibliography offers a set of resources that provide background, tools, and references for accomplishing community health assessment. Community health assessment may be defined as the process of assessing a population’s health or the report of the assessment. Important aspects of community health assessment build with characterization of the community of interest, designated measures of community health, and then reflection upon the data garnered, all of which facilitate a health planning and strategic process. Community health may be narrowed to a specific population, as in the case of maternal and child health assessment carried out for Title V, specific and usually very important conditions. Community health assessment consists of the aggregate, broad-ranging health of an entire population, reports of specific population vulnerabilities, or aspects of the community context that foster population health.

Introductory Works

In the introductory works in this section, community health assessment is examined at three angles exemplifying the process paralleling the development of community health assessment across time. Pickett and Hanlon 1990 illustrates the scope of public health and the health administrator’s responsibility, community health assessment being just one. Dever 1991 delves deeply into assessment, combining epidemiological, administrative, and policy tools, while Brownson, et al. 2010 organizes an approach to community health assessment around intervention evidence and effectiveness. Together they describe the professional expertise that is necessary for a successful assessment, more recently, Green and Kreuter 2005, Hodges and Videto 2005, Nardi and Petr 2002, and Peterson and Alexander 2001. The World Health Organization provides sound step-by-step considerations in carrying out a community health assessment in, for example, World Health Organization 2013 and regions of Africa (McCoy and Bamford 1998).

  • Brownson, R. C., E. A. Baker, T. L. Leet, K. N. Gillespie, and W. R. True. 2010. Evidence-based public health. 2d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195397895.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    This text offers a schematic for enhancing evidence-based public health intervention. Community health assessment provides guidance for the initial steps of (1) prioritization and (2) quantifying the problem. Community health assessment answers the question of needs to be addressed in advance of doing the “right thing” the “right way.” A chapter is dedicated to each of these topics. Other chapters offer tools for prioritizing and developing action plans.

  • Dever, G. E. A. 1991. Community health analysis. 2d ed. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.

    E-mail Citation »

    An early contributor to the notion of community health assessment as multidisciplinary (epidemiology, statistics, health planning, programming and evaluation, demography, and geography) and complex (ethics, social justice, marketing, belief systems). Dever suggests two types of evaluations; one is oriented to health improvements in the population and the second focuses upon local health-department program production of good outcomes.

  • Green, L. W., and M. W. Kreuter. 2005. Health promotion planning: An educational and ecological approach. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    E-mail Citation »

    This is a manual for health educators and pertains determination of the right intervention, at the right time, directed to the right population/subpopulation. The authors of PRECEDE –PROCEED model imprint health behavior science onto every aspect of community health assessment. Their comprehensive approach uniquely and thoroughly considers options to reach and affect the recipients of the chosen intervention.

  • Hodges, B. C., and D. M. Videto. 2005. Assessment and planning in health programs. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

    E-mail Citation »

    Community health assessment is the first responsibility for health educators. Professionally, health educators use assessments to achieve “buy- in” from the target population, to justify applications for programmatic funding and other resources, to have full knowledge of what implementation of a program to address needs will entail, to make explicit program goals and objectives, and to provide measures of future progress.

  • McCoy, D., and L. Bamford. 1998. How to conduct a rapid situation analysis: A guide for health districts in South Africa. Durban, South Africa: Health Systems Trust.

    E-mail Citation »

    Community health assessment guidance in this text offers advice for health officers who will conduct a low-resource, multisectoral assessment of capacities and population health needs. Sample worksheets, examples, explanations, and other guidance are provided.

  • Nardi, D. A., and J. M. Petr. 2002. Community health and wellness needs assessment: A step by step guide. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Learning.

    E-mail Citation »

    This concise workbook and roadmap is based on the Ontario Needs Impact Based Model and includes a description of the problem, determination of what information is needed, and collection and analysis of the information. It extends analysis to summarizing and reporting one’s findings. It uses data, indicators, focused community health, physical and mental health, and emerging tools and resources.

  • Peterson, D. J., and G. R. Alexander. 2001. Needs assessment in public health: A practical guide for students and professionals. New York City: Kluwer Academic.

    E-mail Citation »

    An inherently epidemiological approach to needs assessment, this resource outlines strategic steps of needs assessment focused “on who is the target population and what are the needs of that population” (page 17). Resources and intervention characteristics (efficiency, efficacy, effectiveness) are importantly part of any community health assessment to address the unmet needs identified and prioritized. A textbook for needs assessment.

  • Pickett, G. E., and J. J. Hanlon. 1990. Public health: Administration and practice. 9th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby College.

    E-mail Citation »

    Community health assessment is highly dependent on the administration and organization of state and local health departments. The collection, compilation, analysis, and reporting of public health statistics are often an administrative issue. It is quite dependent on existing, federalized data systems such as vital statistics, locally important administrative data, and unique local surveys gathered for programmatic purposes.

  • World Health Organization. 2013. Community health needs assessment: An introductory guide for the family health nurse in Europe. EUR/01/5019306. Copenhagen: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.

    E-mail Citation »

    This resource is designed specifically for the European continent and provides narrative of the steps in community health assessment, examples, and tools. Parts 1 and 2 are written for the practitioner and trainer audiences.

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