Community Needs Assessment

Researchers Involved: Paul Brown, Erin M. Gaab, HSRAs

Community Organizations Involved: Madera Public Health Department

Process: To be accredited, local health departments (LHD) must assess the health needs of their communities. There is considerable debate in LHDs across the country about how best to perform this assessment, with some counties opting to merely compile epidemiological data (e.g., rates of disease), and others choosing more resource-intensive data collection techniques such as surveys of the population.

Yet the value of these population-level surveys is being questioned as potentially not being appropriate to the health needs of particular communities and not reflecting factors that might be under the control of the LHDs.

One such tool is the CDC's Community Health Survey. LHDs in California are being urged by the state Department of Public Health to use this survey. But this survey was never pilot tested in California, much less with the diverse communities that reside in the San Joaquin Valley, such as Hmong and new immigrant communities.

The study aimed to understand the health issues that individuals in Merced feel are important, to understand what role people see the LHDs as playing in contributing to the health of their communities, and to assess whether community members believe the current CDC survey includes the areas they feel are relevant to their communities and, if not, whether there are other areas that should be included.

The end result of this study contributed to our understanding of the factors that should be considered by LHDs when developing their needs assessment approaches and the extent to which the CDC's Community Health Survey reflects those important aspects.

The Health Sciences research assistants at UC Merced participated in translating and preparing the research plan and focus group documents (through language and layman translation) and entering data collected for faculty members to review and analyze. They also assisted with the recruitment and consent process (in the Hmong community).