Conducting a Needs Assessment

A first step in conducting a community health needs assessment is to identify credible sources of data. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services provides two web-based data systems that may be used in conducting the community needs assessment.

priority populations •  The Missouri Information for Community Assessment (MICA) is an interactive web-based data query system that provides state and local data. It may be used to identify health conditions and behaviors affecting your community and the state. MICA allows the user to create tables describing the rates of health conditions (e.g., cardiovascular disease, infant mortality), preventive screenings (e.g., mammograms, lead screening) or health behaviors (e.g., smoking, physical activity). The system allows you to: 1) select the health condition, preventive screening or health behaviors of interest; and 2) customize data tables according to the year, race, age, sex and county.

•  Community Data Profiles provides state, regional and county data organized in profiles for selected health issues. Data that are relevant for Intervention MICA topics may be obtained from the following Community Data Profiles:

  • 2011 County-level Study: Health and Preventive Practices (Physical activity, fruit & vegetable consumption, overweight, obesity, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, colorectal cancer screening, activity limitation, health care coverage, and medical care)
  • 2011 County-level Study: Tobacco Use, Tobacco Cessation, and Secondhand Smoke
  • Assault Injury
  • Child Health
  • Chronic Disease
  • Death
  • Diabetes
  • Emergency Room
  • Heart Disease
  • Hospitalization
  • Stroke

Another potential data source is the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) that provides state and regional data on a range of health conditions, risk factors and preventive practices. When county or community data are not available, regional data may be the best alternative source for a needs assessment.

Local data may also be available for use in completing a health needs assessment. De-identified data (without personal identifiers) may be available from local health departments, hospitals, schools, and community-based organizations.    

A next step is to review or analyze the data looking for disparities among demographic indicators such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, education, and health care coverage. For example, the data may show that the prevalence of diabetes in your county is significantly greater among a specific population group.  

A community health needs assessment may require that local data be collected to fill gaps in available data sources. An assessment of environmental, safety and policy factors in the community may help identify critical issues impacting the health of the community. A helpful tool for conducting a local environmental and policy assessment is available from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and is entitled Community Tobacco, Physical Activity and Nutrition Policy and Environment Assessment and Resource Guide.

Another helpful resource available from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is the Center for Local Public Health Services’ Guide for Community Health Data Analysis. The document outlines key health indicators with guiding questions prompting the user to analyze the data collected through the community health assessment.

After gathering and analyzing data for the community health assessment, the next step is to prioritize.

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