Defining the Community
Perform a community assessment and describe the tools utilized to accurately define your community
In this module, you will complete a full assessment of your own community. You may build upon this assessment in Community Health II by planning, implementing and evaluating a project within your community designed to address primary prevention of an identified health concern.
Defining the Community
Your community can be any geographically defined county, city, or town. Clearly delineate the following dimensions before starting the process of community assessment:
- Describe the population that is being assessed?
- What is/are the race(s) of this population within the community?
- Are there boundaries of this group? If so, what are they?
- Does this community exist within a certain city or county?
- Are there general characteristics that separate this group from others?
- Education levels, birth/death rates, age of deaths, insured/uninsured?
- Where is this group located geographically…? Urban/rural?
- Why is a community assessment being performed? What purpose will it serve?
- How will information for the community assessment be collected?
After the community has been defined, the next phase is assessment. The following items describe several resources and methods that can be used to gather and generate data. These items serve as a starting point for data collection. This is not an all-inclusive list of resources and methods that may be used when a community assessment is conducted.
The time frame for completion of the assessment may influence which methods are used. Nonetheless, these items should be reviewed to determine what information will be useful to collect about the community that is being assessed. It is not necessary to use all of these resources and methods; however, use of a variety of methods is helpful when one is exploring the needs of a community.
Data Gathering (collecting information that already exists)
- When demographic data are collected, it is useful to collect data from a variety of levels so comparisons can be made.
- If the population that is being assessed is located within a specific setting, it may be best to contact that agency to retrieve specific information about that population.
- The following resources provide a broad overview of the demographics of a city, county, or state:
- State and County Quick Facts—Easy access to facts about population, housing, economics, geographic data, business, based on U.S. Census data
- Obtain information about a specific city or county on these useful websites www.epodunk.com and www.city-data.com
Information from Government Agencies
- Healthy People 2020—this resource is published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It identifies health improvement goals and objectives for the country to be reached by the year 2020
- National Center for Health Statistics—this agency is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; this website provides statistical information about the health of Americans
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—The CDC website contains a large amount of information related to the health of the American population. The search engine within this website can be used to find relevant information
- Federal agencies with statistical programs
- Every state in the United States has its own specific health improvement plan and goals that are based on the Healthy People 2020 document. This information may be available on the state health department website.
- State and local health departments provide information related to vital statistics for the community.
Other Data Sources
- America’s Health Rankings—this website provides information about various health indicators for each state: https://www.americashealthrankings.org/
- Other relevant data sources may be found by conducting an Internet search related to the topic that is being examined through the community assessment.
After data are collected from various sources, it is important to review the information and to identify assets and areas for improvement in the community by comparing local data (if available) versus state and national data. This will facilitate organization of the information that has already been obtained and will provide direction for the next step of the process.
Defining the Community
Data Generation (data are developed that do not already exist):
With the use of public transportation or by driving a vehicle around the community, one can observe common characteristics of the community.
Examples of key observations to make when one is assessing the community through a windshield survey include the following:
- Age of the homes in the community
- Location of parks and other recreational areas
- Amount of space between homes and businesses
- Neighborhood hangouts
- Transportation in the community
- Quality and safety of streets and sidewalks
- Stores and other businesses
- People out in the community
- Cleanliness of the community
- Billboards or other media displays
- Places of worship
- Healthcare facilities
Spend time observing the population that is being assessed. Through observation of interactions among group members, much can be learned about the community, including the following:
- Developmental level of the population
- Effectiveness of peer-to-peer interactions
- Respect for peers and others
- Safety in the environment
- Economic status
Informants could be people who are familiar with and interact with the population on a regular basis.