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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Eleanor V. Howell, PhD, RN (Creighton University School of Nursing)
Description: Previously published in 1996, this book is a revised edition that focuses on initial components in the process of assessing a community's health: identifying sources of and techniques in gathering and reporting data.
Purpose: This book provides an introduction to the purposes, tools, and techniques for examining and describing physical and psychosocial characteristics of a community.
Audience: The audience includes individuals who are interested in community health, but have little or no experience in research, marketing, or healthcare.
Features: The author's unique perspective on community health assessment as an investigative process and an overview of key areas included in health assessment are described. Topics include indicators of health status and health behaviors, comparing health indicators and other health data against public health goals (e.g., Healthy People 2000), data sources (e.g., census and state health data), and a particularly useful discussion on data collection methods (e.g., telephone surveys, mailed surveys, focus groups). Assessment tools and techniques are illustrated in case studies of three communities and a group of city schools. Community assessment results are displayed in narrative reports, charts, and tables. The author offers limited guidance on where to gain additional information on the topics but does recommend hiring researchers or consultants for conducting assessments. A checklist is provided on what to look for in selecting a consultant.
Assessment: The case studies depict how the author summarizes data and identifies community leaders and other relevant groups to interview, the types of questions he asked, and the information he gained. The discussion could be improved by describing the meaning of the results and how to use the information in planning for a healthier community or further analyzing community health needs. Another improvement would be to discuss how cultural structures and belief systems influence health behavior and the ways individuals process and communicate health information.