Needs Assessment in Public Health

 This paper provides a critical analysis of the theory and processes underpinning public health needs assessment. Secondly, it provides a profile of the health and social well being of a Coventry teenage community in order to identify and appraise their health needs in relation to the topic of early pregnancy. CHAPTER 2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK This Chapter explores the theoretical aspects of public health needs assessment and sets the theoretical background to the research. 2.1. Context, Meaning and Purpose of the Assessment of Public Health Needs British public healthcare system has come into a lot of criticism of late. Funded by general taxation, public health services are provided free to general public. Only 8 per cent of population has been reported to use the services of private healthcare to supplement the public health service (Huwa, 2010). At the same time, thanks to media coverage and recent findings it has become evident that lots of patient’s needs are not met within the existing public service, especially if to take consider occasional budget health cuts in the United Kingdom. The results of a survey of 900 British nurses published more than a year ago in a Daily Mail article contain many alarming comments that have made the general public aware that “Elderly patients are ‘parked’ in day rooms while waiting to be transferred to another hospital, and left ‘soiled and neglected’, and ‘needing fluids’. Sometimes spare beds run out – and people have to sleep on chairs or mattresses on the floor. Nearly half the nurses said patients in non-clinical areas did not have proper access to water, oxygen, suction and a call bell.” (Huwa, 2010) In the context of health inequality, health budget cuts, and other public health challenges, public health needs assessment is perceived as one of the core functions characteristic of public health along with assurance and policy development (Byrd, 2002: 273). At the same time, it has been often considered the most complicated by public health professionals due to the amount of specific work it involves. Public health needs assessment can be understood as an on-going process that provides necessary background for planning public healthcare and various programs in public health. As for the purposes of public health needs assessment, they may be well understood from the definition of public health needs assessment. The latter has been defined as a developmental process that describes people’s health state, enables to identify principal risk factors and underlying causes of people’s ill health, as well as identify necessary actions to address these issues (Rowe, McClelland, and Billingham, 2001: 8). The meaning of public health needs assessment is well illustrated by the definition produced by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). According to it, public health needs assessment is “a systematic method for reviewing the health issues facing a population” (NICE, 2005: 3). It aims not just to describe local population’s disability extent, but to realize the existing inequalities and the way they impact the community in general, as well as values and perceptions which are placed on these issues by local population and healthcare professionals that work with them (Rawaf & Marshall, 1999). In this context, public health needs assessment is also interpreted as a project which is not completed at the moment of report completion, but triggers both planning and policy-making.

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