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Developing a Comprehensive Epidemiological Community Health Needs Assessment in Yoro, Honduras

Robin Tilden Bigelow, Jessica Wagner, M. Jane Mohler


Academic, secular, and religious organizations have shown an increasing interest in improving ‘Global Health’ through international medical brigades. One major challenge is to convert resources and good intentions into tangible results that are culturally acceptable, empowering and sustainable. Another is to disseminate assessment tools to share as replicable resources. We shared a replicable Community Health Needs Assessment, designed by a chronic disease epidemiologist and undergraduate students with participation by a community health committee, under the auspices of the University of Arizona and NGO (non-government organisation) Salud Juntos in La Guacamaya, Yoro, Honduras, and discuss the barriers to implementation.

The door-to-door survey was conducted during the summer of 2008 by a team of trained bi-lingual undergraduate volunteers and contained a mixture of categorical and free response questions representing 17 public health domains, ranging from nutrition to perceived public health needs. Results are available elsewhere; this paper will discuss the design and implementation process. Following University of Arizona institutional review board approval and during the implementation of the survey, additional domains of interest were identified, and linguistic and cultural challenges were encountered.

Surveys should be tailored to the specific community and, although logistically challenging, participatory action research methods are ideally incorporated in full partnership. Sound research methodology, community participation, and thorough training and piloting of surveyors can decrease cultural and linguistic barriers, assuring meaningful assessment that will truly benefit the community.

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