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The Importance of Community Assessment

The Importance of Community Assessment in
Community Health Outreach

Before you can plan and implement a successful community outreach event, you must understand your community, which includes knowing its assets as well as its needs. The Healthy People 2020 initiative provides a community assessment guide at its website called MAP-IT http://healthypeople.gov/2020/implementing/default.aspx?source=govdelivery
Here you can find a tool to guide you in data collection you can use to determine your community’s assets, needs, and priorities. The assessment tool looks at a community’s physical environment, access to health services, social environment, genetics, and individual health behaviors.

Ken Morse, director of my local community health coalition, Healthy Oxford Hills, has this to say about community assessment and partnership:

“Healthy Oxford Hills, along with all the other Healthy Maine Partnerships, work on health planning processes and community outreach. A key piece of this is dwelling as much or more on community assets as on community needs. This work is sometimes called “strength-based” or “asset-based community development.” The idea is to engage people and resources from as many diverse sectors or components of the community as possible. We sometimes describe this as “knitting together” different community threads. Every person and every group has something unique to offer the community.

It’s really interesting and encouraging how successful collaborations sometimes spring from bringing diverse folks together. For example, to address physical fitness, we worked on building and promoting local walking trails. We identified a brook running through our downtown as a key water trail. It needed some serious cleaning up, so our trails committee was able to enlist the local Trout Unlimited chapter to help out with this.

In times of limited budgets, getting diverse partners to work together using existing resources can often help achieve community goals without new funds being needed. The price of this sort of diverse collaboration is the price and patience it takes to build strong relationships. It does take time for people and group to work together to build trust that helps us all focus on the community goals we share as opposed to dwelling on the things that make us different. We find that, over time, this makes for stronger, healthier communities.”

By: Deborah Clark, MLIS, AHIP
Healthy Communities COI Leader
clarkd@wmhcc.org | (207) 744-6196

For further information:
ACHI Community Health Assessment Toolkit
http://www.assesstoolkit.org/
Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP)
Community assessment guide
http://www.naccho.org/topics/infrastructure/mapp/framework/index.cfm

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