The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Healthy Community Council (HCC) is a community-based organization located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia that was established in 1995 with the mission “to enhance the quality of life for the community through collaborative efforts of individuals, agencies, and institutions.” To accomplish this mission, HCC members have conducted community needs assessments on quality of life in 1996, 2001, and 2006. Data from each assessment has been utilised to determine community need. Previous assessments have led to over $11 million in funding for community initiatives. The HCC has just implemented the process for conducting the 2011 community needs assessment. Emphasis will be on the comparison of previous assessment data from 2001 to 2006 to evaluate longitudinal trends. The objective of this presentation is to provide a detailed step-by-step process for a comprehensive community needs assessment. Steps to conducting the 2006 and 2011 assessment include (1) forming a community needs coalition, (2) selecting community-specific indicators, (3) developing a community needs assessment instrument, (4) obtaining a random sample of assessment participants, (5) collecting, managing, and analysing assessment data, (6) utilising resources (budget, in-kind contributions, etc) throughout the assessment process, (7) interpreting assessment data, (8) ascertaining local, state, national and international data for comparison purposes, (9) tying outcomes to assessment data, and (10) finalising a written report. The steps can be utilised by any agency or organization to develop a community-specific assessment to identify needs and establish priorities. Specific techniques including common pit falls to conducting community assessments will be addressed.
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