Health Needs Assessment (HNA) Toolkit

Health Needs Assessment (HNA) Toolkit

Providing timely and appropriate support

Over 75,000 of the Afghans who were displaced when the Taliban took control of Kabul were resettled in the United States through Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) Response. OAW was organized in 2021 as a coordinated effort across federal government offices, national non-profit organizations, state and local resettlement agencies, private businesses, and other stakeholders to resettle and support Afghan newcomers. As Afghans arrive in the United States, resettlement agencies, federal partners, healthcare systems, public health professionals, social service providers, and community-based organizations need to collaborate to provide timely and appropriate support. Conducting a health needs assessment is an important first step in designing and implementing public health interventions. 

What is a Health Needs Assessment?

A health needs assessment is a systematic process of collecting, analyzing, and using information to identify the health needs and priorities of a specific population or community. The goal is to identify gaps in health services, resources and health outcomes, and use the information to plan and implement programs and services to increase health equity and improve the overall health and well-being of the community. It typically involves gathering data on knowledge, attitudes, health behaviors, demographics, health status, access to care, and other factors, and using this information to identify health priorities and develop a plan to address them.

Purpose of Conducting a Health Needs Assessment

  • Identify the health problems and priorities of a community, including any disparities and inequities in health outcomes.
  • Assess the existing health system, including health infrastructure, resources, and capacity, to determine if it can meet the health needs of the community.
  • Guide the allocation of resources and the design of health interventions that are tailored to the specific needs and context of the community.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of health interventions and track progress over time.

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Surveys and Questionnaires

Surveys and questionnaires are standardized tools used to collect information about the health needs and behaviors of a community. They often include closed-ended questions that can be analyzed quantitatively.

Focus Group Discussions

Focus group discussions involve a small group of individuals who share their opinions and experiences on a specific health issue. This method allows for in-depth exploration of a particular topic and provides rich qualitative data.

Key Informant Interviews

Key informant interviews involve talking with individuals who have expert knowledge or experience with a particular health issue or community. These interviews provide valuable insights into local health needs and issues.

Medical and Health Records Review

Reviewing medical and health records can provide insight into the health status and needs of a particular community. This method can also help identify gaps in care and areas for improvement.

Direct Observation and Physical Examination

Direct observation and physical examination involve observing and assessing individuals or communities for signs of illness or disease. This method can provide valuable information about the health status of a community and identify health needs.

Community Mapping and Participatory Approaches

Community mapping and participatory approaches involve working with community members to identify local health needs and resources. This method can promote community engagement and ownership of health initiatives. It can also help identify barriers to accessing care and opportunities for community-based interventions.

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Identify the community to be assessed.



Gather data on the community's health status, behaviors, and needs.

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Analyze the data to identify priority health issues.

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Involve the community in the assessment process.

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Develop and Implement

Develop and implement a plan to address the identified health needs.

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Evaluate the effectiveness of the plan and make necessary adjustments.

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Best Practices for Conducting a Health Needs Assessment Among RIM Communities

This guide offers tips and reminders on what to remember or avoid when conducting an HNA among RIM communities. It emphasizes the importance of a community-driven approach and a thorough understanding a community's health needs to effectively address health disparities and promote health equity.

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Health Needs Assessment Question Checklist

This checklist provides questions for service providers to use as a guide when conducting health needs assessments among RIM communities. Included are examples that showcase the varied ways that organizations can use HNAs to achieve their own program goals.

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Example 1: IRC Atlanta

  • Purpose: HNA used by IRC Atlanta for determining both gaps in knowledge around U.S. healthcare and gaps in health services needed by the client after the first 90 days in the U.S.
  • Assessment Type: Questionnaire
  • Implementation: This HNA guiding document is used by IRC Atlanta’s bilingual community health workers (CHWs) during home health visits with Afghan clients. In these home health visits, the CHW visits the client(s) in their home at a time that is most convenient for the client(s). After conducting the HNA, the CHW will refer the client(s) to the necessary health services that are needed (e.g., dental care, mental health, specialty care, etc.)

Below are examples of HNAs that were created by two IRC offices, IRC Atlanta and IRC Salt Lake City. These two examples showcase the varied ways that organizations can use HNAs to achieve their program goals. 

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Example 2: IRC Salt Lake City

  • Purpose: HNA used by IRC Salt Lake City for determining community needs around Afghan women’s health. 
  • Assessment Type: Survey with facilitator scripts and notes
  • Implementation: This sample includes a call script to introduce the HNA and recruit participants, notes to help guide facilitators in each section of the HNA, and different questions around women’s health topics, including health access, maternal health and family planning, preventative gynecological health, sexual and reproductive health rights, gender equity, etc. The HNA was created in collaboration with members of the Afghan community. 
  • More information: Download the Slides
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