Community Opinion – Overview

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.


  Using Focus Groups handout–tip sheet : Tips from a nutrition evaluation consultant who conducts several focus groups a year

Perceived Needs Summary example report : An example of a community opinion summary report

Which Technique is Best?–guidance : Use the information here to help you decide which technique to use to determine community opinion

Media Survey–guidance and worksheets : Includes how-to steps and worksheets on doing a media survey

 Community Opinion Survey–guidance and worksheets : Includes a sample survey, distribution ideas, and tips on doing a community survey

  Key Informant Interview–guidance : See here for information on how to conduct these types of interviews

  Community Meetings– guidance : Includes steps to follow in holding a community forum and a public hearing

  Focus Groups–resource list : Includes a list of resources on how to conduct successful focus groups

   Community Opinion Summary Sheet : Use this worksheet to summarize what you learned from the community




People work together in a number of ways, in coalitions, partnerships, committees, teams, task forces, and so on. The tools in Moving to the Future will help you no matter how your group is structured. To make Moving to the Future friendly to people working together in different ways, we use these group terms interchangeably. So, if you are working in a formal committee and Moving to the Future uses the word team, the information applies to you as well.


In Moving to the Future, the word program is defined broadly and could encompass any group of activities including projects, services, programs, and policy or environmental changes.

Nutrition and Physical Activity

In Moving to the Future, we often pair the wordnutrition with the phrase physical activity, as for example in “address the nutrition and physical activity needs” or “develop a nutrition and physical activity plan.” This does not suggest that these materials are only useful to people working on community-based nutrition AND physical activity programs. You can use the Moving to the Future resources to develop a plan focused only on nutrition or a plan focused only on physical activity. Moving to the Future provides guidance on a process–not on content. In fact, these materials could be adapted and used to develop a teen pregnancy prevention plan, for example, or a plan for any other community health priority.

Be Flexible & Realistic

Moving to the Future principles Flexible and Realistic are the bywords of this approach. The intent of Moving to the Future is to provide guidance. Use what is helpful and modify materials to meet your needs. Planning and implementing community-based programs is not work that can be done perfectly. Do the best you can, given your real-world limitations, and commit to making improvements every year.