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Issues in Setting Community Priorities

In any strategic planning or community health improvement planning process, we are asked to identify a limited set of priorities to use in developing goals, objectives and strategies for the final plan.

The challenge in doing this is that our assessment of the community usually identified multiple strategic health issues that should be addressed in order to improve community health status. However, given limited resources, capacity and organization all health problems in a community cannot be effectively addressed by a single plan. Therefore, we seek to prioritize certain issues on which to focus our improvement plans and initiatives.

Various methods (e.g. Hanlon Method, nominal group process, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, etc.) and criteria (e.g. size of the problem, seriousness of the problem, effectiveness of the intervention, extent of disparity, populations most affected, community desire, etc.) to determine what to prioritize.

Finally, in order to be able to implement the health improvement plan, other members of the local public health system will be needed. In setting priorities we need to foster broad system collaboration — helping all involved to see their role in community health improvement, regardless of the specific priorities selected.

For this week’s discussion respond to the following questions:

Which criteria are most important for use in determining community health improvement priorities? Why?
Which methods are most useful – quantitative methods? Qualitative methods? Why?
What are challenges and concerns that need to be acknowledged in setting priorities that may impact community member and public health system participation in the implementation in the final plan?


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