In this step of gathering information you will learn what people think are the health concerns and health assets in your community. This information needs to be considered along with community data. Moving to the Future: Nutrition & Physical Activity Program Planning includes tips and tools on five different techniques to assess community opinion. You do not have to use all five techniques to find out what your community thinks about nutrition and physical activity issues.
Use the Which Technique is Best? handout to help you decide which technique(s) you might use.
Media Survey. The news and advertising media influence people’s opinions and perceptions. A media survey is one way to find out how people in your community perceive nutrition and physical activity issues. How to conduct a media survey is explained in the Media Survey worksheets. For a national overview of where Americans get their news and what they think of it, see the Biennial Pew Media Survey conducted by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. This national media survey has been conducted every two years since 1990. Community Opinion Survey. The purpose of a community opinion survey is to find out what the community perceives to be as its main concerns and assets. By modifying survey questions you can find out what the community thinks about a specific nutrition and/or physical activity issue such as adult obesity, child lead poisoning, cancer, or the nutrition and activity concerns among children with special health care needs. The worksheets in this file include a sample survey, tips to conducting a community opinion survey, guidance on surveying a mix of people in your community, and survey distribution ideas.
Key Informant Interview. For our purposes, a key informant is a community resident who is in a position to know the community as a whole or know a particular demographic in the community. Interviewing a diverse array of key informants will help you understand what people in your community think are the health assets and health concerns of the community. Conducting key informant interviews is one way to collect community opinions relatively quickly. Use the Key Informant Interview worksheets for guidance.
Community Meetings. Community forums and public hearings are two types of community meetings you should consider to assess community opinion. Either one of these community meetings have the additional benefit of building community support for an idea or a project. The Community Meetings handout includes specific steps to holding a community forum and a public hearing.
Focus Groups. A focus group is a guided, small-group interview that uses group interaction to elicit information from group members. Focus group data provides insights into the attitude, perceptions, and opinions of the group participants. Focus groups are not for developing consensus or for finalizing a plan. The group dynamics in a focus group tend to generate more ideas than individual interviews. A focus group, or a series of focus groups, is useful in gathering details regarding opinions and perceptions found through other techniques. There are two focus groups handouts that can give you more guidance.
The Community Opinion Summary Sheet is a place where you can summarize your findings on community opinion.
The Perceived Needs Summary is an example of how one community summarized and presented its community opinion assessment results. The Cooperative Extension program has a long history of collecting community opinion and perceptions. The Extension professionals at the state or local level may have additional resources to help your team find out what people in the community see as important. The local Extension agent may have recently conducted a survey or held a series of community meetings to find out what people think is important. The Minnesota Department of Health Community Engagement online resource for local public health practitioners also has some helpful fact sheets on different techniques to gathering community opinion. See community engagement needs assessment factsheets for its information.