Homeland Sustainable Development

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January 07, 2008

Needs Assessment, a weapon for change

Needs assessments play a vital role in strategic planning and in program and policy development process. In the needs assessment process, we try to learn about current needs for services and an assessment of effectiveness of past programs to meet those needs.

When we talk about needs assessment we can look at it in an individual or population based frameworks. In an individual framework, finding the basic needs of an individual is not so difficult, everybody needs shelter, clean water, education, food and so on. But when we talk about population needs assessment, it would be complicated in some degrees. In fact in a population level, measurement of health outcomes and needs related to health outcome makes it challengeable.

We have to define the health outcome, we have to define needs, we have to find appropriate and validated measures to be able to understand the current health situation. Using some traditional measures like mortality and morbidity, not only just give us the negative sides of health outcomes but also just give us the extreme and absolute sides of the health outcomes and there is no news about the spectrum of health outcomes and a level of change.

Despite the difficulty of finding the appropriate definition and measure for delivering a needs assessment project we almost always follow some common steps.
The fundamental question for the program's needs assessment:
• Who is the target population?
• What are the target population's needs?
• Which groups within the target population have these needs?
• Geographically, where are those in need?
• What is currently being done to aid those in need, by whom and where?
• What and where are the unmet needs?
• How well did we do in addressing those needs in the past?
• What has changed since we started?

An articulate and well designed needs assessment project is a powerful tool for informing policy makers for supporting and financing the programs for addressing the unmet needs in a population.

Posted by Syamak Moattari at January 7, 2008 12:54 AM