|Rapid Assessment Procedures: Qualitative Methodologies for Planning and Evaluation of Health Related Programmes (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1992, 528 pages)|
|Section III: Community participation and rapid rural appraisal (RRA)|
|29. Rapid appraisal to assess community health needs: A focus on the urban poor|
By Susan Rifkin, Hugh Annett and Iraj
Susan Rifkin is a professor at the Institute of Tropical Hygiene, University of Heidelberg. Dr. Hugh Annett is with the Department of International Community Health at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Dr. I. Tabibzadeh is with the National Health Systems and Policies Division of the World Health Organization in Geneva.
This paper considers some rapid appraisal techniques from an organizational perspective and how they are used to develop a more rapid form of data gathering for use in urban areas. The paper lays out a series of specific steps which were tried in several circumstances with assistance from WHO. Of interesting note is the report that these guidelines were found useful in Bangladesh, Tanzania and also in an urban area near Liverpool in the U.K.
The success of this approach will be further judged by its use, particularly if other researchers continue to be self-critical and document issues related to their work. - Eds.
ONE OF THE major problems for planners is collecting data on which to base programme design. In the health field, national and local plans have often been tenuous, as data are either non-existent or too unreliable. This is particularly true in developing countries because of the scarcity of data collection infrastructures and the lack of professionals to collate and analyze the data. It is even more difficult to overcome this problem of scarce data in urban squatter and slum areas where migration leads to unstable populations and lack of legal land ownership, making people very reluctant to "stand up and be counted."
Data collection is also complicated by the fact that it is often an expensive and timeconsuming exercise; baseline surveys usually take several months to complete and twice as long to analyze. As a result, planners cannot wait for the information and it is left on the shelves to collect dust.
Many planners have sought ways to overcome these problems. One such method for collecting information about agricultural practices in rural areas in developing countries was developed in the 1970s. Known as rapid appraisal (RA), its purpose was to collect data quickly in order to deploy resources to those in greatest need. The original RA methodology focused on rural areas. However, the Urban Health Programme of the World Health Organization developed a draft RA methodology for data collection in urban poor areas. This draft was tested in an eight-day workshop at the Municipal Council, Mbeya, Tanzania, to plan interventions for improving the health situation. The results of this field testing, as well as other national experiences applicable to this methodology, were incorporated and printed by WHO in a document entitled, "Improving Urban Health: Guidelines for Rapid Appraisal to Assess Community Health Needs: A focus on health improvements for low-income urban areas."
The purpose of this paper is to introduce this methodology by briefly describing the eight-day workshop, the application of the methodology in other national experiences and to identify its strengths and weaknesses.