Community Needs Assessment

It is well established that taking the time to examine the state of a community before developing a plan to advance community well-being is important. Community Needs Assessment (CNA) describes the process of using both qualitative and quantitative data describing a community to inform community improvement efforts, such as planning initiatives to increase walkability, or launching school-based health centers to increase health care access. CNAs are important because they help change-makers take local community conditions into account when planning and prioritizing strategies to improve that community rather than generalizing or making assumptions about what is needed. Ideally, CNAs are developed through a collaborative process (involving stakeholders from various sectors) and take into consideration the historical context of a community (e.g. whether gentrification is a local factor). Vulnerable populations are at risk for disparate access to community resources because of economic, cultural, racial, or health characteristics. Examining data across different populations is important and allows you to see that people in your community have different lived experiences, resulting in different risks and needs.


In any given community, it is important to understand the “why” behind the data—conducting community listening sessions are one way to hear the community stories behind the data, which provide important context. At the local level, conditions can be very different for people living in different neighborhoods. It’s important to examine data and listen to residents from all areas in a community about their lived experience.


CNAs have the potential to drive transformative community change. Adoption of a well-being framework as part of a CNA acknowledges the interconnectedness of our physical health to the community conditions in which we live. Specifically, many have used the Vital Conditions for Community Well-Being framework to examine data grouped into categories that reflect common community programming and organizational structures, such as transportation, housing, and urgent services, where the work actually happens in communities. The use of a well-being framework helps users more easily go from insight to action--from community assessment to community improvement.

Resources & Tools


CSBG Organizational Standards: Community Needs Assessment
Resource
Brought to you by Community Action Partnership
Bold letters
Maps and Data
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Screen Capture of Decolonizing Evidence to Better Support Native Communities blog post
Decolonizing Evidence To Better Support Native Communities
Resource - Blog
Brought to you by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Cover page of Toolkit for Conducting Focus Groups document
Toolkit for Conducting Focus Groups
Resource - Guide/handbook
Screen capture of Conducting Successful Virtual Focus Groups webpage
Conducting Successful Virtual Focus Groups
Resource
Brought to you by Child Trends
First page of A Guide to Conducting Online Focus Groups guide
A Guide to Conducting Online Focus Groups
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Vital Strategies
First page of Focus Group Tip Sheet document
Focus Group Tip Sheet
Resource - Fact Sheet
Brought to you by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
First page of Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group document
Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group
Resource - Guide/handbook
Cover page of Introduction to Conducting Focus Groups document
Introduction to Conducting Focus Groups
Resource - Guide/handbook
A collage of photos of people and community members, each with a different color overlay.
An Introduction to Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA)
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 09/19/2023
two motorcyclists at a train crossing in a small town Photo by craig kerwien on Unsplash
Planning for Healthy, Equitable Communities
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons

Data & Metrics


Screen shot of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Laws
Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Laws
Dataset - Administrative

 Related Topics


Card image
Community Health Needs Assessment

Card image
Poverty Alleviation