Needs assessment for a CHW program

Needs Assessment for Community Health Worker Programs

Community health worker (CHW) programs can be a valuable resource for improving health outcomes in underserved communities. However, to ensure that training programs for new and experienced CHWs are effective, it’s important to conduct a needs assessment.

A needs assessment, or analysis, is an important first step in creating an online training initiative for CHWs. Establishing what stakeholders need from a program, and what your trainees need to learn, will help you create a program that has a greater chance of success.

Too often, people either skip the step of creating a needs assessment or make mistakes. But a messy training needs assessment could set the tone for your entire program, and could lead to unsatisfied health workers or wasted funds.

This process helps identify the specific health needs of the community and ensures that the program is tailored to meet those needs. In this guide, we’ll explore why a needs assessment is crucial and provide tips on how to get started.

What is a training needs assessment?

A training needs assessment (TNA) is a systematic process of identifying gaps between current and desired levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities of an individual or group of individuals in an organization. The purpose of a TNA is to determine what training is needed to help employees perform their job duties more effectively and efficiently.

The information gathered through a TNA can be used to develop an educational program that is tailored to the specific needs of the learners and your agency. This can help ensure that the program is effective in improving job abilities and effectiveness of workers.

When you’re planning on bringing online training to your staff, minimally start by looking at:

  • students’ needs
  • agency, organization or funder needs
  • technology needed to make it a success.

Core Competencies for CHWs

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Likely, there are other factors you’ll need to assess, but you can start here, more or less in this order:

Conduct A Needs Assessment for A Health Program in 7 Simple Steps

1. Define the Problem You’re Hoping to Address

One common mistake is looking too narrowly at your organization when documenting needs. For example, some administrators know they need to address a knowledge gap because of new cancer screening guidelines. But they forget to consider if their in-person training staff is qualified to handle online discussions. They assume that uploading a PDF toolkit to a website will be enough for to everyone. Looking at only one piece of the puzzle will solve exactly one piece.

Once you’ve defined the problem, look at it from all angles. Ask yourself:

  • What’s causing the problem?
  • Who’s affected by it?
  • How are they affected?
  • What do you need to do to address it?
  • Has anyone done anything about it yet? If so, what happened?
  • What resources do you have to do something about it? How can you use them?

2. Find Out What Your Employees Need to Learn.

Next in your needs assessment, define what your learners need to know to address the problem. Do they need cultural communication techniques? Do they lack health literacy skills? Does your state require anything for certification? If so, start there.

You may also have results-based needs, such as addressing a growing population with an influx of volunteer community liaisons. Looking at gaps in learning will help you identify how to address them.

Note: You can ask your students what they want to learn, but proceed down this road with caution. Sometimes, they don’t know what they need and lack the terminology to tell you, or have very little experience with (or love of) online learning.

3. Determine Gaps in Your Infrastructure.

Once you’ve identified what your audience needs to learn, your needs assessment needs to include a section about the weaknesses you see in your infrastructure to make that happen. For example, you might need to hire a new fleet of trainers with skills in online teaching strategies. Or, your grant has reporting requirements, and you’ll need evaluation tools to address them. You also can group stakeholders with your infrastructure because they will also have requirements you’ll need to address, such as the ability to become self-supporting with your new courses.

4. Decide on the Best Technology for Your Needs.

Knowing what your needs are for learning and for your infrastructure will help greatly when you analyze what kind of technology will work best for your organization. Then you can begin to decide if you need self-paced learning, instructor-led online courses (and what those instructors need) or a blended-learning program. When you have a list of digital tools and features you need, you can measure them against providers and vendors that can help address those.

5. Define A Strategy and Objectives to Successfully Complete It.

Remember that a needs assessment is just the beginning. Look at it as the launching point for a deep investigation into what it will take for your program to succeed. Jumping into something for the sake of it might seem like a fast solution. But you’ll be glad you took the time to look deeply into your requirements before you begin building.

Your strategy must clearly define the problem you’re working on solving, the training your CHWs need to complete, and the steps your organization needs to follow in order to achieve a successful program. Break down the project into milestones to keep everyone aligned and report on progress more easily.

6. Define Your Performance Measures or KPIs.

Before implementing any online training program, you’ll need to define the key performance indicators that will tell you whether the initiative is successful or not. Some metrics you could consider include certifications achieved or completion rates. But you’ll have to evaluate internally what your ultimate goal is based on the program’s objectives and the problem you’re addressing.

7. Set A Budget.

Finally, once you’ve defined exactly what the program needs to look like to solve the problem, it’s time to set a realistic budget. It may seem counterintuitive to list this step at the end, but entering the needs assessment with a budget in mind may hinder your ability to take all factors into account — after all, if you’re focusing on a number from the beginning, you may have a skewed perception of what your organization needs or how it can achieve it within that constraint. Plus, it’s hard to set a budget without a clear view of what your program needs in the first place.

A Needs Assessment Is A Priceless Tool For Any Online Learning Program

A needs assessment is the only way to get a big-picture view of the problem you’re addressing to ensure that any steps you take can address it appropriately. Furthermore, a needs assessment is an effective way to document the issues your program is addressing and keep everyone involved on the same page about what’s being done and why. Without it, you risk wasting precious resources and leading your team down the wrong path.

Core Competencies for CHWs

Register now for this foundational course and save with the Early Bird Discount.