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Free «Community Needs Assessment» Essay Sample

Definition and Overview of Target population

Orange County, California, is one of the most diverse communities in America. The community comprises of mixed cultures. These range from Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, blacks, Native Americans, and other minority groups. People in the county are wealthier than other residents of California, one of the wealthiest states in the U.S. These people face diverse health problems. These range from mental health problems, cancer, to nutritional related diseases. Most people in Orange County are working middle class. These people are extremely busy and have very little time to prepare quality meals. This makes them have various nutritional problems, as they prefer eating out and eating fast foods instead of eating quality homemade food. Thus, it is vital to develop strategies that would solve the nutritional needs of the population.   

Phase I: Laying the Foundation

Step 1: Clarify the Stakeholder Roles

The main aim of this step is to identify stakeholders made of representatives from all groups that are relevant to the research. Participation of these stakeholders is critical to the success of the research. At this stage, it is critical to determine the stakeholder roles and set up ground rules to prevent future conflicts. Input from relevant stakeholders increases the trustworthiness of the research. In addition, encouraging stakeholders to get involved in the research makes them feel empowered. Involving stakeholders also helps in mobilizing support for the needs assessment.

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One of the most critical stakeholders of the research was the members of the Orange County community. These members were integral to the research. Without them, the research would not be successful. Prior to the beginning of the research, the participants of the research set ground rules. According to the ground rules, the research will determine what decisions to take through consensus. No member will have the authority to make decisions affecting the research individually. In addition, members would collaborate with other members of the research committee on various matters touching the research. The committee would also respect the input from members. In addition, there would be provision of training to members who did not have sufficient skills to undertake the research.

Prior to the beginning of the research, it was critical to build a common understanding of the expectation of the research among all stakeholders of the research. This helped increase mutual trust, understanding, and respect among all stakeholders of the research. In addition, the committee fixed meetings time to be convenient to all members. The location of the meetings was also accessible to all committee members and the length of the meetings did not inconvenience committee members.

Step 2: Understand the Benefits of Participatory Action Research

Step 2 helps people, undertaking the research, come to a common consensus on the benefits of participatory action approach to the research and the advantages of undertaking the research using this method. Participatory approach ensures that the research gets a clear picture of the nutritional needs of the community. In addition, participatory research helps identify unique needs of various people in the community. Participatory research also facilitates seeing of ideas in a variety of different and informative ways. Participatory research also encourages volunteering by various parties, which increases the effectiveness of the research. The research committee members should brainstorm on how to make the research participatory throughout the research process. Using participatory research is greatly beneficial in reducing potential problems that the research may face. In addition, the research should make use of various literatures for better understanding of various potential issues they would face during the research.

Step 3: Determine the Purpose of the Research

This step attempts to determine the focus and scope of the research. For the eventual success of the research, it is wise to start small. This would enable the formulation of efficient strategy for the entire research cycle. Thus, in undertaking the research, it will first focus on a small sample to determine roughly the needs of the residents of Orange County. This would help determine the research on a wider scale. The development of a logic model helps to visualize how various activities of the research would help in achieving the objectives of the research. The logic model shows the interconnection of various activities in the research to produce intended results.

The main purpose of the research was to determine:

  • The nutritional and dieting behaviors of residents of Orange County
  • The nutritional needs of residents of Orange County
  • How the lifestyle of residents of Orange County affects their nutrition
  • Disparities in nutrition among various social classes and cultures in Orange County

Step 4: Context of the Research

This step helps form a better understanding of various situations and circumstances that a researcher is likely to face, while conducting the research. Research context comprises sources of support and barriers that researchers are likely to encounter, while conducting the research. These include staff and volunteer time and budget constraints. The research context also contains all raw materials that researchers may use to conduct the research. Raw materials include past research reports and existing documentation. The context of the research also involves people who would use the research.

In undertaking the community needs assessment of Orange County research, the residents of Orange County will provide information that will be critical to the study. Existing research on nutrition of residents of Orange County would contribute greatly to the research findings. It made full use of demographic information of Orange County to ensure its efficiency. The study considered various needs of different cultures in Orange County. The research also took into consideration the social status and education level of residents of Orange County. It would help the health department of Orange County know the nutritional needs of residents of Orange County, enabling the formulation of strategies that would fulfill various nutritional needs. In addition, the research would provide information that would help identify why certain residents of Orange County suffer from certain nutrition related diseases.  

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Phase II: Methodology

Step 5: Identify the Main Research Questions

When using questionnaires, it is critical to ensure that the research questions fall within the scope and purpose of the research. Brainstorming helps in developing of relevant questions, which meet the objectives of the study. A research team may seek the help of volunteers or outside consultants. Outside consultants have expertise on how to undertake research. They can efficiently tailor the research to fit the specific needs. Outside consultants have experience that makes them conduct research efficiently within a limited duration of time. The advantage of using volunteers is that volunteers provide their services freely. However, volunteers may present biased information, which would reduce the accuracy and efficiency of the research. The research did not use outside consultants. However, it solicited the services of volunteers.

The study used the following questions in the questionnaires:

  1. What is your age?
  2. What is your sex?
  3. What is your level of education?
  4. What is your occupation?
  5. What is your ethnicity, race, or culture?
  6. What is your marital status?
  7. Are you employed? If yes what is your average annual income?
  8. What is your understanding of healthy eating?
  9. How often do you engage in physical activity?
  10. How often do you eat out?
  11. What are the reasons that make you eat out?
  12. Which restaurants do you visit when you eat out?
  13. Which are the most common meals that you order when you eat out?
  14. How often do eat in fast food restaurants?
  15. What are the main foods that you cook at home?
  16. How often do you cook high calorie foods at home?
  17. Do you take fruits after meals?
  18. How often do you take soft drinks such as soda?
  19. Approximately how many cups of water do you take daily?
  20. How often do you restock your grocery supply?

Step 6: Choose Methods, Tools, and Sampling/Recruitment Strategy

This is the most important step in the needs assessment research. It determines whether the research will be a success or a failure. This step determines how to gather information within the scope of the investigation. During this step, researchers determine who to ask questions, how to recruit participants of the research and ethical considerations.

In conducting research, it is important to use multiple methods of data collection. This approach is known as triangulation. Triangulation involves collecting information on same questions but from different sources of using different methods of data collection (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007). Having the same conclusion from the multiple sources strengthens the findings of the study. Triangulation enables researchers to view various issues from different perspectives.

Surveys, questionnaires, public forums, and public records were the main source of information of the research. Surveys and questionnaires involved asking residents of Orange County various questions regarding their nutrition. The researchers used mailing, telephone surveys, handing out surveys to people in various community meetings, and posting questionnaires online, to determine nutritional needs of residents of Orange County. Use of multiple methods in undertaking the research strengthened the findings.

The study took into consideration various ethical issues. The research guaranteed the privacy of the information that respondents provided. In addition, it showed respect to the individuals and communities that took part in the research. It also ensured there was informed consent and voluntary participation of respondents. There was also honest and open communication with various stakeholders of the research.  

Step 7: Plan the Analysis

This step helps researchers make decisions on how to make sense and analyze information that researchers gather. Before starting the study, it is critical for researchers to plan what they intend to do with the information collected from the research. Thinking about analysis during the design stage improves data collection tools and ensures all stakeholders of the research understand and appreciate what is expected of them. The researchers should trust the examination questions, as they fulfill the purpose of the research. In addition, researchers should develop a research plan.

Research Plan

List of data collection strategies

How to document data

Parties who would gather the data

How data analysis will be conducted

Parties that would conduct data analysis

Confidential interviews with samples

  • Telephone interviews or face to face contacts
  • Taking notes
  • Tape-recording
    • Staff and volunteers
      • Compiling qualitative data and determining the mean response
   

Staff and volunteers

Phase III: Data Collection and Analysis

Step 8: Gather Information

This step helps in managing the practical aspects of the collecting the needs assessment of the community. It is essential to plan carefully data collection methods to ensure the efficiency of the research. Poor planning would result in increased cost and time of the research by making it prone to various mistakes. During this step, researchers consider implementation tools and logistics of managing data.

It is critical to conduct a pre-test pilot test prior to the beginning of the sdury to fine-tune the research tools. Researchers asked volunteers to fill the questionnaires to determine the time it would take to complete them, as this ultimately affects the efficiency of the questionnaires. Pre-testing also determines whether the wording of the research questions is efficient and how respondents would feel, while responding to the questionnaires. Pre-testing helps incorporate the suggestions of respondents on ways to reword existing questionnaires to improve their efficiency (Hardon, Boonmongkon & Streefland, 2001). In addition, during this stage it is critical to train people who would conduct the research. Training ensures that researchers collect the information in a consistent manner. Researchers should look for methods of dealing with unforeseen problems.

Step 9: Analyze Information

During a study, researchers collect a huge volume of information. The research used various computer-guided tools to analyze information gathered from the research. These tools have a high level of accuracy that would increase the efficiency of the research and reduce the amount of time necessary to analyze the data. During this step, researchers should review whether the questions achieved their intended meaning. In addition, during this stage researchers begin summarizing and coding data. They should develop a system that tracks the source of data from the research.

From the research, it was clear that residents of Orange County understand what it means to eat healthy. Parents recognize the importance of being role models in ensuring children have healthy habits. 33 % of kids in Orange County eat fast food three or more times a week and 26% eat fast foods at least once a week. Most of the food that people eat away from home contains a higher amount of fat and is low in fiber and calcium than food that people eat at home. However, while eating at home is likely to improve the diet of residents of Orange County, it is not enough to make people be healthy. Despite 68 % of residents of Orange County taking their meals at home, 52 % of adults, and 44 % of children eat five or more fruits or vegetables a day. Watching TV during mealtimes is the most significant factor that makes residents of Orange County have unhealthy eating habits (Coon et al., 2001). 68 % of children in Orange County take at least one soda a day regardless of whether they are eating out, at home or in school (Anon, n.d). Increased intake of Soda is harmful as it replaces more nutritional drinks such as milk.

Between 30 and 37 % of Orange County residents, meet basic fitness standards (California Department of Education, n.d). Approximately 25 % of adults do not have any physical activity. In addition, there is a scarcity of opportunities for physical activity in Orange County’s schools and workplaces. 15 %of schools do not even offer physical education in their curriculum (California Department of Education, n.d). The tendency of teenagers to take physical activity reduces, as their years in school increases.

Most residents of Orange County drive to work and spend majority of their time sitting at their workstations. This reduces the amount of physical activity that they undertake. In addition, most people live close to their places of work. These people take stairs very rarely and use the lift. All this conspires to reduce the amount of exercise that people take. It increases the risk of obesity of these people. People who exercise regularly during breaks have a high level of productivity compared to people who do not exercise.

Phase IV: Acting On Findings

Step 10: Findings of the Research

Orange County has a various nutritional needs. Residents of the county do not have regular exercises. This increases the risks of obesity and other nutritional related illnesses. In addition, residents of Orange County regularly eat fast foods, which have huge quantities of unsaturated fats. These foods are the most common foods that people eat, when they eat out. Failure to eat fruits regularly makes residents of Orange County lack nutrients that are vital for their healthy well-being. However, most residents of Orange County know and appreciate the importance of healthy eating habits. The media affects the eating habits of residents of Orange County significantly. Fast food companies run their advertisements during mealtimes. This influences teenagers’ decision to seek fast foods in various fast food restaurants.

Step 11: Recommendations

From the research, it was clear that residents of Orange County have various unmet nutritional needs. This puts them at risk of suffering from various nutritional related ailments. Therefore, relevant agencies should undertake extensive campaign to encourage healthy eating habits. In addition, there should be more physical activity; in school and at the workplace. Schools should include physical activity in their curricula. In addition, various businesses should also provide physical activity facilities. Parents should ensure that they are role models of their children by having healthy eating habits.

   

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