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High-quality community needs assessments can help focus limited resources on the needs of a rapidly expanding population—older Americans. Based on such assessments, organizations and communities can effectively plan and deliver cost-effective, appropriate health promotion/wellness programs and health/social services to targeted populations. This article, which describes the Arkansas Aging Initiative’s (AAI) use of a community needs assessment to identify its constituents’ top health needs, provides specific background information for communities with demographics similar to those in Arkansas and offers assessment strategies for communities throughout the US. The AAI used two complementary methodologies to obtain critical input from Arkansas providers and their communities: focus groups of healthcare providers and community members and surveys administered to older adults. The assessment confirmed that health problems in the communities were consistent with leading causes of morbidity and mortality at state and national levels. It indicated that respondents’ top three health needs related to affordability, including affordability of prescription medications, medical care, and health insurance, and that needs varied inversely with age. In other findings, married individuals rated their own health as better than their single counterparts; whites rated their health better than non-whites; and more than half of respondents reported leaving their counties to receive healthcare. This community needs assessment has enabled the AAI to address respondents’ needs by developing specific educational and interdisciplinary healthcare initiatives, such as increasing access to a prescription drug assistance program.

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Correspondence to Claudia J. Beverly.

Additional information

In 2000, a referendum passed by the citizens of the State of Arkansas (Initiated Act One) dedicated all of Arkansas’ Master Tobacco Settlement funds to improving the health of Arkansans. The Arkansas Aging Initiative is an Initiated Act One program designed to improve the health of older Arkansans.

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Beverly, C.J., Mcatee, R., Costello, J. et al. NEEDS ASSESSMENT OF RURAL COMMUNITIES: A FOCUS ON OLDER ADULTS. J Community Health 30, 197–212 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10900-004-1958-y

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  • community needs assessment
  • affordability
  • health needs
  • older adults
  • rural