A community needs assessment is an important tool that enables policymakers, health practitioners, and managers to ensure that maximum health improvement is achieved by allocating health care resources to identify people who are in the greatest need (Pickin & Leger 1997). The community needs assessment is a vital tool in health care planning that is used at three different levels: the families, communities and finally, the populations.
A community needs assessment is a way through which the opinions, challenges, assets, and needs of a community can be gathered (Appleton & Cowley S 2000). A project that meets the needs of the community is determined. The resources and strengths that are available in the community are identified so that the needs of families, children, and the youth are met. The capabilities of the citizens, organizations, and agencies in the community are the focus of a community needs assessment. A framework for identifying and developing solutions, services, nurture and support for families and children and building communities is provided. The state of health of the people in the community is described, the causes of ill health and major risk factors are identified and a cause of action to address these issues is developed. A community needs assessment is a continuous developmental process as opposed to a one-off activity because it is added to and amended over time. The community needs assessment is a way through which information obtained can be used to plan public health programs and health care in the future.
The purpose of a community needs assessment is that it enables the nurse to allocate scarce resources to places where maximum health benefits will be achieved (Naidoo & Wills 2000). The community needs assessment also helps the nurse plan and deliver effective care to those people who need it the most. A community needs assessment also ensures that the nurse practically applies the principles of social justice and equity.