Community Assessments are the first step in a larger planning process for communities seeking to improve adolescent sexual health outcomes. See Planning for Evidence-Based Programming to learn about a widely-used, comprehensive planning process, and Adapting Evidence-Based Programs for information about which program adaptations are appropriate and which should be avoided.
Who is at the Table?The work group that designs and carries out the assessment is key. Can you involve members of your priority population? Who else could help give you access to the information you are looking for?
Defining CommunityBefore starting the assessment process, it is helpful to clarify what we mean by community. Often data are presented by political/geographical units such as counties or zip codes. These do not necessarily describe the social environments young people grow up in.
When gathering descriptive data on adolescent sexual risk-taking behaviors and the risk and protective factors that influence these behaviors, consider social settings beyond political-geographical boundaries, such as individual schools, ethnic neighborhoods, or other priority communities such as youth in foster care.
Demographics and PrevalenceThe first step in any prevention effort is to describe the problem as it exists now. What are the adolescent pregnancy and STD/HIV rates in your community, for example? Demographic data are also important in helping us understand who is most affected. Useful data are available online; for example, see these New York State Data Sources.
Risk and Protective FactorsTo plan effective interventions, we also need to describe the specific risk and protective factors that affect youth in the community. Research has identified many factors that influence adolescent sexual risk-taking behaviors. An adolescent who experiences risk factors without counter-balancing protective factors is more likely to run into serious trouble.
Readiness for ChangeIs the community ready for the change you want to make? When it comes to adolescent sexual health, this is an especially salient question, since sex education interventions are often controversial in local communities. A low level of community readiness will indicate the need for one strategy, while a high level will likely lead you to a different strategy.
Best Practice Resources
Office of Adolescent Health: Tips and ResourcesHealthy Teen Network developed a series of useful assessment materials for the HHS Office of Adolescent Health:
A Snapshot of Your Community: Understanding Resources and Needs Assessments
This slide set explains the benefits of an assessment, the steps needed to conduct an assessment, and the relationship between assessment and program outcomes.
Best Practices for Conducting a Needs and Resource Assessment: Tip Sheet
This tip sheet is intended to serve as an overall guide in thinking through needs and resources assessment.
Needs and Resources Assessment Data Worksheet
This worksheet is intended to help Teen Pregnancy Prevention grantees consider and quantify the number and type of data sources used in an assessment.
Community Tool BoxDeveloped by the University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and Development, the Tool Box is a free, online resource for those working to build healthier communities.
Assessing Community Needs and Resources
In addition to providing many other resources, the Community Tool Box provides guidance and examples for each step of the needs and resources assessment process.
Community Readiness ModelDeveloped by the Tri-Ethnic Center at Colorado State University, the Community Readiness Model is a research-based process for measuring readiness for change. Through the CRM process, stakeholders facilitate community buy-in and determine strategies to address a given issue using these steps:
- Define "community"
- Conduct key respondent interviews
- Score results to determine readiness level
- Develop strategies based on readiness level
Community Readiness for Community Change
The Tri-Ethnic Center Community Readiness Handbook provides a guide to the process.