A Health needs assessment (HNA) is an essential tool to inform commissioning and service planning. A HNA can be defined as a process of identifying the unmet health and healthcare needs of a population, and what changes are required to meet those unmet needs.
Understanding individual needs as opposed to the wider needs of the community is important in the planning and provision of local health services. If individual needs are not met then there is a danger of a few people determining the perceived health needs of the whole community.
The British Medical Journal describes the key summary points:
HNA is the systematic approach to ensuring that the health service uses its resources to improve the health of the population in the most efficient way.
It involves epidemiological, qualitative, and comparative methods to describe health problems of a population; identify inequalities in health and access to services; and determine priorities for the most effective use of resources.
Health needs are those that can benefit from health care or from wider social and environmental changes.
Successful HNA's require a practical understanding of what is involved, the time and resources necessary to undertake assessments, and sufficient integration of the results into planning and commissioning of local services