Volume 3: December 2010

Assessing Community Health Needs

written by Jessica Gallagher ’11 Fahrner Fellow

In collaboration with the Meadville Medical Center and Caryl Waggett, Professor of Environmental Science and project director for CEED’s Environmental Health Initiative, I spent the summer of 2010 developing a proposal for a community health needs assessment for the city of Meadville. A community health needs assessment aims to provide quantifiable information about the health of a specific community by presenting data on health status, including epidemiologic and local health problems, health needs, health care and community resources. Community health needs assessments are considered an extremely valuable tool for improving health in a given area and implementing new health policies because they allow medical facilities to target areas of need specific to that community and improve their quality of care accordingly. Community health needs assessments also build community awareness by increasing common understanding of health issues.

As a summer 2010 Fahrner Fellow, I researched health indicators that would help identify major areas of need, such as obesity, prenatal care and health literacy. I also worked to develop a strong methodology to help implement the upcoming survey and created a proposal to submit to the Meadville Medical Center. This assessment will provide countless agencies with crucial health information that hasn’t been updated since the Medical Center’s 2002 survey, and will allow the citizens of Meadville to give their input on the health issues and problems they consider to be most pertinent.