Photo of three children sitting outdoors and smiling.

Assessing community needs and assets is essential to building a healthier city or community. A situation assessment helps inform the group planning and action to follow.

Key Questions to Consider

  • What issues are important for the city or the community?
  • What concerns are most important to community members?
  • What do key stakeholders want to know about the situation?
  • What methods will be used to assess the current situation? What trends can be seen in key indicators of health and development?
  • What information do we need? Who has access to this information? How can we access it?
  • What groups are most affected by these issues, how, and to what extent (e.g., indigenous people, children, afro-descendants, persons with disabilities)?
  • How do we support or create mechanisms for communication and dialogue that allow diverse voices to be heard in the assessment?
  • What personal, environmental, and social factors affect these issues?
  • What resources and assets can be engaged to address these issues? How will the initiative be financed
  • What approaches for evaluation can be appropriate with this situational analysis?

How do we do this? Here are some recommended activities to Assess

  • Identify and assess community concerns (i.e., areas of high importance and low satisfaction) using methods such as surveys, focus groups, and town hall meetings.
  • Identify, assess and monitor levels/indicators of health and wellbeing. This may include:
    •  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (e.g., end poverty, end hunger, ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing)
    • Communicable diseases (e.g., new and re-emerging cases of mosquito-borne diseases)
    • Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) (e.g., cardiovascular diseases, diabetes) and their modifiable risk factors (e.g., obesity tobacco use, alcohol use , diet, physical activity)
    • Information on different social determinants: health, education, housing, work, environment, lifestyles, etc.
    • Social determinants of health and health inequities (e.g., income inequality, social exclusion due to ethnic background, poverty, gender, etc.)
    • Environmental determinants of health (e.g. access to parks and green areas, air pollution, road safety, urban solid waste treatment)
    • Conditions of local settings (e.g. schools, universities, workplaces, food markets, , housing )
    • Safety and human security
  • Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the amount and type of problems/goals, and the nature of their determinants; including an analysis of the costs, burden, and benefits to the overall population and different sub-groups, with particular attention to those living  in vulnerable conditions
  • Develop an inventory of assets (people, institutions, civil society groups) that can be mobilized to address important issues and concerns

Field Notes

Assessing and Responding to Community Needs through Faces, Voices, and Places (FVP)

Icon image of Dominican Republic flagBOCA DE MAO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC


How can program actions be developed based on the needs identified by the community? The Faces, Voices and Places (FVP) initiative, carried out in the Boca de Mao region of the Dominican Republic, demonstrates how assessment can guide action. The purpose of this initiative is to reduce inequality and strengthen citizenship through shared responsibilities and community participation.


Program activities in FVP were developed based on the needs and priorities identified by the community; namely, sanitation, hygiene, food production, and basic living conditions. This effort is coordinated by the Local Council for Sustainable Human Development (LCSHD). In addition to the health sector, the LCSHD includes representatives from community and neighborhood associations, the municipal authorities, the agricultural and education sectors, PAHO/WHO, and the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP).


The community is encouraged to participate in open council meetings, advocacy efforts, health fairs, and food fairs. This initiative showcases the level of coordination between a strong community organization, and a holistic and coordinated response from various government sectors.



  1. Pan American Health Organization. Health in All Policies: Summary of experiences from the Americas. The 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion; 2013 Jun 10-14; Helsinki (Finland). Washington, DC: PAHO; 2013
  2. Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Health in All Policies in the Americas: Human Sustainable Development in Boca de Mao [Internet]; 2016. Available from:


Assessing and Responding to Women’s Health Issues through STAR Health Services

Icon image of Bolivia flagLA PAZ, BOLIVIA


Assessments revealed the troubling health situation of women in La Paz, Bolivia. Data showed high incidence of cancer, maternal mortality, sexual and reproductive health issues, HIV/AIDS, and domestic and intra-family violence. Assessments also pointed to key determining factors including low level of education, lack of political participation, and limited employment opportunities. Women showed significantly less access to health care, and minimal participation in the promotion and care of their own health, largely associated with discrimination.


The STAR Health Services Initiative, focusing on health inequities related to gender, was initiated in response to the health situation of women in La Paz. It was developed and implemented from 2004 to 2006 through direct intervention by the health department in La Paz. The initiative aimed to improve health conditions by strengthening the management of services, especially those pertaining to “quality with focus on gender” and the development of processes that empower women in their community to enhance their access to health care.


Evaluation showed the main achievements of this initiative were: incorporation of gender considerations into health services, greater responsiveness to the specific health needs of women, improvement in service teams and the quality of patient care and treatment, monitoring of user satisfaction, enhanced health coverage, and development of a community education program that raises awareness for women’s health care rights.



  1. Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Star Health Services. Washington, D.C: PAHO; 2009. Available from:

Resources to Help You Assess

Resources from the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization:

​Resources from Partners/Countries:

Resources from the Community Tool Box (CTB):

CTB Toolkits:

CTB Troubleshooting Guide(s) for Solving Common Problems:

Other Related CTB Readings: