Health needs assessment Epidemiological assessment Health needs - Developing countries Health needs - Developed countries
S. Smith, J. Long, J. Deady, F. OKeeffe, D. Handy and T. ODowd, Adapting developing country epidemiological assessment techniques to improve the quality of health needs assessments in developed countries, BMC Health Services Research, 5, 2005, p32
BMC Health Services Research 5, 2005
Background: We were commissioned to carry out three health assessments in urban areas of
Dublin in Ireland. We required an epidemiologically robust method that could collect data rapidly
and inexpensively. We were dealing with inadequate health information systems, weak planning
data and a history of inadequate recipient involvement in health service planning. These problems
had also been identified by researchers carrying out health assessments in developing countries.
This paper reports our experience of adapting a cluster survey model originally developed by
international organisations to assess community health needs and service coverage in developing
countries and applying our adapted model to three urban areas in Dublin, Ireland
Methods: We adapted the model to control for socio-economic heterogeneity, to take account
of the inadequate population list, to ensure a representative sample and to account for a higher
prevalence of degenerative and chronic diseases. We employed formal as well as informal
communication methods and adjusted data collection times to maximise participation.
Results: The model we adapted had the capacity to ascertain both health needs and health care
delivery needs. The community participated throughout the process and members were trained
and employed as data collectors. The assessments have been used by local health boards and nongovernmental
agencies to plan and deliver better or additional services.
Conclusion: We were able to carry out high quality health needs assessments in urban areas by
adapting and applying a developing country health assessment method. Issues arose relating to
health needs assessment as part of the planning cycle and the role of participants in the process.
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