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close this bookRapid Assessment Procedures: Qualitative Methodologies for Planning and Evaluation of Health Related Programmes (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1992, 528 pages)
close this folderSection III: Community participation and rapid rural appraisal (RRA)
close this folder29. Rapid appraisal to assess community health needs: A focus on the urban poor
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentMethodology
View the documentData collection and analysis
View the documentThe final workshop: Planning processes and plan of action
View the documentApplication of the methodology in other national experiences
View the documentStrengths and weaknesses of the methodology
View the documentConclusions


As indicated above, this RA method was developed during a workshop and tested in Mbeya, Tanzania. The introduction to the concept was the first step in undertaking rapid appraisal. It was explained that:

1. RA is a method to obtain important information rapidly: Only relevant and necessary information should be collected. It is not intended as a household or other type of extensive survey giving details of specific problems.

2. RA is based on three sources of information: documents, key informants, and observations.

3. RA is undertaken by professionals in multi-disciplinary teams so that various aspects of information about one subject can be explored and a range of experiences can be applied to judge the importance and validity of the information received.

4. RA is not merely a method for collecting data about the health problems of the urban poor, but more importantly, a process on which to formulate a plan of action to improve the living conditions of the people, based on their participation in defining their own problems.

The second step was to present a framework for data collection and analysis. The idea of using an "information pyramid" for obtaining information was introduced. Participants were informed that the blocks of information to build the pyramid were collected from the three sources identified above.

To reinforce the value of separate information sources, it was suggested that participants write information gathered from documents on yellow cards, from key informants on pink cards, and from observations on green cards. These cards would then be placed in the relevant category in the pyramid. This enabled participants not only to see where the information was gathered, but also the areas where there was too much information and where there was too little.

The next step was to explore the information pyramid in detail. Participants were divided into three teams composed of members from different sectors. Each team brainstormed on questions necessary to build the blocks of the pyramid. Using white cards, they wrote down each question, which was then read out, placed on the appropriate block of the pyramid (which had been drawn on large sheets of white paper and attached to a blank wall) and then grouped together around specific issues. These groupings provided the basis for categorization of data and they could also discern when there was either too much or too little information. After these issues had been identified, participants discussed from which sources information might best be obtained.

The types and kinds of observations were discussed and checklists were developed for information from interviews and documents based on the categories of the information previously described. Participants were then requested to examine key documents to glean data from this source. They were asked to give general information about Mbeya based on these documents. Key informants were identified, including government officials, party officials, social and health service personnel, teachers, community leaders (heads of community organizations, religious leaders, women's groups, informal leaders) and members of nongovernmental organizations working in the area.