Conducting a needs assessment is the first, and probably the most important, step in any successful planning process. Sufficient time should be given for each needs assessment. The amount of time required for a needs assessment will depend on the time you have available to address the problem, and the nature and urgency of the problem being assessed.

Needs assessment is the process of identifying and understanding the health problems of the community, and their possible causes (Figure 12.4). The problems are then analysed so that priorities can be set for any necessary interventions. The information you collect during a needs assessment will serve as a baseline for monitoring and evaluation at a later stage.

A woman displaying a symptom of goitre
Figure 12.4 You may find out that conditions such as goitre are common in your locality. (Photo: Henk van Stokkom)

Before you begin a needs assessment, it is important to become familiar with the community you are working in. This involves identifying and talking with the key community members such as the kebele leaders, as well as religious and idir leaders. Ideally, you would involve key community members throughout the planning process, and in the implementation and evaluation of your health education activities.

There are various categories of needs assessment. In order to develop a workable and appropriate plan, several types of needs should be identified, including health needs and resource needs, which are outlined below.