Methodological Complexities and the Use of GIS in Conducting a Community Needs Assessment of a Large U.S. Municipality

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Reliable assessment of health and social needs within a community ensures that local input drives strategic planning and programmatic decisions. Results are used to determine the priorities and focus of local public health departments and to support the activities of health and social service agencies. We utilized a geographic information system in the planning, administration, and analysis of a recent community needs assessment to ensure a reliable and randomly distributed sample of a diverse urban population and to allow for small geographic area analysis of disease prevalence data. Collection of location data at the time of the 3,361 face-to-face assessment interviews allowed for the association of spatial data with measures of health conditions and behaviors. Results of the assessment indicated a need for public health programs designed to address emerging public health concerns in the community. Incorporating a spatial component in analyses of morbidity and needs assessment data allows for efficient integration of demographic and socio-economic census data and permits ad hoc analyses of varied and changing geographic strata.

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