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Facilitating community participation in health needs assessment



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The importance and benefits of involving community members in health policy making-­-from the first step of needs assessment through to actual policy development--are increasingly being recognized. This thesis describes the evaluation of a community consultation process which was part of a needs assessment conducted by Saskatoon District Health, in Saskatchewan, Canada. In September 1995, a Children and Youth Working Group was formed, made up of volunteers representing service providers, users, and families. Their mandate was to develop and priorize recommendations on ways to improve the health status of children and youth in the District, which has a total population of approximately 300,000. In addition to a comprehensive epidemiological assessment, the Working Group engaged in a community consultation process which solicited input from the general community, with a specific emphasis on key groups such as youth, Aboriginal, immigrant/refugees, and service providers in health, education, social services, and justice. In this process, information on perceived needs of children and youth was collected through 20 focus groups (n=213) and a questionnaire (n=1,985). Based on a synthesis of the quantitative and qualitative data, the Working Group drafted a set of recommendations, which were then discussed at a community meeting for input and feedback. This research evaluates the effectiveness of the consultation process in facilitating community participation using three sources of data: the entire consultation process was observed (from January 1996 until February 1997), including the focus groups, Working Group meetings, and the final community meeting; interviews (2) were held with the Working Group (n=9), with selected individuals who had participated in the consultation (n=7), and with non-participants (n=2); and documentation produced by the Working Group (i.e., minutes, notes, background material) was reviewed. These data were analyzed thematically according to criteria established jointly by the representatives of the member groups of the Population Health Project (Working Group, Coordinating Group, Research Advisory Group) and the researcher. The effectiveness was gauged by comparing the findings with the criteria and with the components of meaningful community consultation as defined by the Working Group (appropriateness, timeliness, completeness, accuracy, representativeness, relevance). The themes which emerged from the analysis deal with the participants' feelings about their participation or non­participation, the success of the consultation process, the nature of the data collected; by-­products of the process, and the consultation's influence on the outcome of the needs assessment. The results of this analysis are presented and conclusions drawn regarding factors that contribute to or impede effective public participation in health needs assessment.



Children and Youth Working Group, community consultation, Saskatoon District Health



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Community Health and Epidemiology


Community Health and Epidemiology


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