Community Needs Assessment
The purpose of the Community Needs Assessment (CNA) is to identify population health needs and to describe factors that should be addressed in order to improve the health and well-being of individuals living in Windsor-Essex County.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit’s (WECHU) CNA consisted of three types of assessments: a quantitative profile of Windsor-Essex County (WEC), focus groups consisting of priority populations and key stakeholders, and a community survey. Through the use of existing data sources, the Health Unit was able to make local comparisons to provincial findings where possible.
Summary of Findings
The results of the CNA were categorized into themes which identify health needs and issues throughout the community. The key themes are:
- Communication and Awareness: Survey respondents and focus group participants highlighted that generally they were unaware of the programs and services offered by the Health Unit. They had difficulty determining the role of the Health Unit over other services offered in the community and identified the need to make public health services more visible in WEC.
- Mental Health: The need for an enhanced community focus on mental health emerged as a strong theme. Results from the community survey and focus groups identified the perception that the Health Unit and local organizations should prioritize mental health. The results highlighted a need to improve mental health in WEC by developing strategies that better address the needs related to overall mental health.
- Barriers to Accessing Health Services: Several barriers related to accessing health services in WEC were consistently brought up in the focus groups and community survey. Over 2 in 5 survey respondents indicated they have faced barriers that prevented them from accessing health care services (i.e., wait times and hours of operation). By working with community partners to reduce barriers, it is possible to minimize health inequities in the community, both at an individual and population level.
- Healthy Living: Survey respondents and focus group participants saw health promotion and disease prevention programs and services as the Health Unit’s key role. Residents of WEC expressed an interest in seeing more health promotion and education initiatives related to healthy eating, physical activity, and overall healthy lifestyle strategies.
- Partnerships and Collaboration: Responses from the priority population focus groups identified the need for the Health Unit and community partners to come together to address the health needs of the community more effectively. It was often suggested that creating opportunities for partnerships is one way to move the Health Unit toward enhanced program effectiveness and organizational efficiency.
The following recommendations were developed as a result of the findings of the CNA. The recommendations include the need to be more visible in WEC, strengthening and building partnerships, focusing on improving mental health and healthy living programs and services, and working to reduce barriers to accessing health services. The recommendations are as follows:
- Establish a more visible presence in the community.
- Develop and implement a comprehensive communication plan. This may include an enhanced media, marketing, and advertising strategy and a public relations strategy to increase awareness of the programs and services offered by the Health Unit.
- Continue to expand and promote the Health Unit’s social media platforms and website to provide the community with easy access to current public health information and events.
- Focus on client satisfaction and experience to ensure the Health Unit is providing on-going value to its clients. This will allow us to build community recognition and become a more well-respected, “go-to” health organization.
- Focus on improving mental health care in the community.
- Develop a formal strategy that outlines the roles and responsibilities of the Health Unit regarding mental health.
- Establish formal partnerships with agencies that have expertise in mental health and work with partners to advocate for improved mental health services in the community.
- Reduce barriers to accessing and utilizing public health services.
- Review and evaluate the delivery of public health services to identify key barriers that prevent the Health Unit from accommodating for cultural differences. This includes language or other requirements such that services are dynamic and evolve to meet client needs.
- Develop an organizational policy or position statement to reflect the Health Unit’s commitment to improving its cultural competencies, such as a diversity policy, and provide professional development opportunities to support implementation.
- Explore ways to improve access to public health services for residents such as expanding hours of operation beyond standard school and business hours.
- Comprehensive, community-based approach to healthy living programs and services.
- Increase support and resources to better promote healthy lifestyles among individuals and their families, particularly as it relates to healthy eating, active living, cancer screening and prevention, family health, substance misuse, and oral health.
- Advocate for healthy public policies and changes within the built environment that make it easier for residents to live a healthier lifestyle and make healthy choices, including improved access to affordable healthy foods, free or low cost recreational opportunities, and fluoridation of the community water supply.
- Collaborate with community partners to support enhanced health promotion and advocacy efforts to better assist residents to make healthy choices throughout WEC whether they are at home, school, or work.
- Strengthen and build partnerships with local community organizations.
- Identify gaps and areas of opportunity related to community partnerships and the delivery of public health services in the community.
- Collaborate with new and existing community partners to better direct public health and other health services to priority populations in the community.
The results of the CNA identified existing and emerging areas of health-related need in WEC. This assessment will play an important role in shaping the Health Unit’s strategic and operational plans over the next five year period. Some of the key findings and resulting recommendations extend beyond the mandate and services provided by public health and may be of value for other local organizations who share a vision of improving the health and well-being of the community.