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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

Strengths and weaknesses of the methodology

In the health field, RA is an unfamiliar approach to data collection. The experiences described above allowed the methodology to be tried and an assessment made of its strengths and weaknesses. The assessment is summarized as follows:


· RA provides a methodology whereby planners/managers of programmes are involved in the whole planning process from information collection to development of action plans. Equally important, it provides a basis for involving community leaders in the planning process.

· RA helps planners see how working in multi-disciplinary teams contributes to, and draws upon, experiences from other sectors. Participants felt that they had gained much by sharing their particular assessment of problems in poor urban areas and ideas for their solutions. They also valued the teamwork approach to interviewing as, by sharing the burden of asking questions and recording information, no one person had all the responsibility.

· RA helps planners discover aspects of community life unknown to them before the investigations. Participants working in institutions have been helped by this methodology to discover community problems and to enter into dialogue with community leaders. It often helped those familiar with community work to identify organizations, activities and/or work they did not know existed.

· RA helps planners to see the value of community involvement, particularly through semi-structured interview. These interviews had the advantage of allowing interviewees to expand their interpretation of problems, as well as to develop a dialogue with municipal officials/resource holders. As a result, participants felt that they had not only a better understanding of community problems, but also a basis for contact with community leaders to try to solve those problems.

· RA is a method by which priority for surveys can be identified, saving both time and money and allowing rapid development of plans of action.


· There is a need to overcome bias in the sample. There is no "objective" sampling technique. Key informants who give a narrow and biased view of the problems may be inadvertently selected. The planning teams need to be made aware of this and to spend adequate time in selecting informants so as to avoid this problem.

· Sufficient time to complete the planning process is needed. Data collection without the development of a plan of action is not useful for an RA that has the objective of both problem identification and planning with community involvement. Conducting the workshop over a period of months, as in the Liverpool experience, may be one way of overcoming this problem.

· There is a need to overcome interview problems. As many people have little experience in conducting interviews and making useful observations, some training is necessary. Role playing or pilot collection of information, with appropriate comments from facilitators, can help solve this.