Project Overview > Concepts
It is important in any planning process to:
- understand the current situation from a number of perspectives
- analyze this information
- plan accordingly.
Conducting a situational assessment is part of that plan. As outlined in THCU's Introduction to Health Promotion Planning workbook:
"A situational assessment influences planning in significant ways – by examining the legal and political environment, the stakeholders, the health needs of the population, the literature and previous evaluations, and the overall vision for the project. The phrase "situational assessment" is intentional – this terminology is used as a way to avoid the common pitfall of only looking at problems and difficulties and a way to consider the strengths and assets of individuals and communities. In a health promotion context, this also means looking at socioenvironmental conditions and broader determinants of health.
This critical and often time-consuming part of getting started on the plan for your health promotion project involves various forms of data gathering. In this part of the planning process, we use data to provide answers to a number of questions we are concerned about. And in doing so, we need to determine the best ways to find out the answers."
There are many types of data to consider when planning a program.
Situational Assessments in the Workplace (back to top)
Planning in the workplace is similar to planning in other health promotion settings, such as schools and communities. Implementing a situational assessment is the third step in the Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion Planning Framework (as outlined below in Figure 4.) More information about this framework can be found in THCU's Introduction to Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion Info-pack. This element is a vital part of most workplace wellness initiatives.
In most cases it is necessary to carry out two other preliminary steps before undertaking a situational assessment:
- Create and work with an internal workplace wellness committee that includes representation from as many areas of the organization as possible.
- Secure support from management to proceed with a situational assessment, ideally with some commitment to consider the results and take related action.
Situational assessments can focus on any aspect of the workplace that affects health, including on the employees themselves. Consequently, situational assessment tools relate well to the three aspects of CWHP, and this is reflected in the tool characteristics listed in the catalogue.
Figure 4: CWHP Planning Framework
Audience – Who Is Being Assessed? (back to top)
Basically, there are two audiences involved when conducting a situational assessment in a workplace:
- All employees (including management) are assessed to get a thorough and broad understanding of the overall population.
- An employer or a committee provides information to get an understanding of the overall environmental or organizational aspects of the workplace.
It is not unusual for a workplace to undertake both of these approaches.
Types of Situational Assessment Tools (back to top)
In this resource, six different types of situational assessment tools are identified. Each type is distinct, but there are also many similarities across the six. The terminology for types of situational assessment tools varies from workplace to workplace as well as geographically, e.g., in Europe, what this resource refers to as a "workplace audit" is known as a "self-assessment".
This resource does not represent an exhaustive listing of all types of tools. Tools that focus on occupational health and safety were omitted because these are readily available to professionals working in this area.
Current practice survey – A type of situational assessment tool that collects individual responses from employees about their current behaviours (e.g., how much they eat/sleep, current levels of physical activity). Employees self-report their behaviours. Current practice is often combined with other types of situational assessment tools.
Health risk assessment – A type of situational assessment tool that collects clinical measures of health status (e.g., BMI, cholesterol, nutritional analysis, heart rate response to exercise). The assessment of risk is based on clinical report/measures (i.e., it is not self-reported). In most cases, a health risk assessment requires a professional to administer the assessment to all employees. The health risk assessment usually results in individualized results and an aggregate report for the workplace.
Interest survey – A type of situational assessment tool that collects the information from individual employees about the types of programs and services they are interested in. An interest survey usually results in an aggregate report for the workplace.
Needs assessment – A type of situational assessment tool that collects the self-reported needs of individual employees. Individual employees fill out a needs assessment and identify areas they would like to focus on. A needs assessment asks for employee opinion and usually results in individualized results and an aggregate report for the workplace.
Organizational culture survey – A type of situational assessment tool that collects information from employees or employers about the organizational working environment. Elements of the organizational environment include leadership style, management practices, the way in which work is organized, employee autonomy and control, and social support.
Workplace audit – A type of situational assessment tool that provides a snapshot in time of what's happening in the workplace. The workplace audit collects information about what the workplace offers employees (e.g., showers, flextime.) One or a small group of individuals from the workplace provide the information for the workplace audit. The information collected from the workplace audit could be specific to one or more aspects of comprehensive workplace health promotion (i.e., organizational change, occupational health and safety, lifestyle practices.)
Type of Tool
Health Risk Asses.
|Aspects of CWHP|
|Health and safety||
|Who fills it out|
|Employer or committee||
|What the tool might contain|
|Asks for employees' opinions (e.g., how do you feel about your workplace?)|
|Takes clinical measures of employees' health status (e.g., BMI, heart rate response)|
|Has a checklist of workplace policies (e.g., nutrition program)||
|Has questions on self-reported current health behaviours of employees (e.g., how much do you sleep?)|
|Asks for employees' interest in specific areas of self/workplace improvement (e.g., do you want to eat better?)||
|Focuses on work-life balance, mental health and stress (e.g., how often do you feel anxiety?)||
|Gives options for wellness practices (e.g., would you like a walking program?)|
Approaches to Consider When Conducting a Situational Assessment
(back to top)
1. Gather the perspectives of key stakeholders
- Identify individuals and organizations with an interest in this type of project or area of concern.
- Describe the views of stakeholders around the intended project (who supports it, who is opposed, and who has clear ideas for it?)
2. Examine the literature and previous experience
Specifically, consider the following:
- Identify what your own or others' previous experience has revealed.
- Examine the literature for research about projects, communities, and issues related to your priority issue.
- Examine previous evaluation findings of similar projects.
- Review the literature regarding similar types of projects and recommendations for designs.
3. Collect health-related data about the priority issue
Consider collecting the following:
- demographic data
- morbidity and mortality rates
- health behaviour and practices (if available)
- health status data (including social, economic, and environmental indicators.)
4. Review existing mandates
As part of any situational assessment, it is both necessary and important to review existing mandates, to ensure that the proposed project fits well with these. Specifically, consider reviewing:
- the mandate of your own organization
- other legislation and regulations
- policies and guidelines
- professional standards and ethical guidelines
- political agendas
- mandates of potential partners and/or competitors
- budgets for implementation.
5. Assess vision and mission statements
In addition to examining existing mandates, it is also important to look at the following:
- the vision of others involved in the planning process
- the vision of your organization
- desired directions by managers, politicians, community leaders
- relevant strategic plans.
6. Complete a PEEST analysis
Identify the factors that could potentially affect your project:
Demographic and legal factors might also be considered here.
7. Identify information gaps
Examine all of the information. Are there any gaps, particularly related to an issue addressed by the project? Identify where additional information can be obtained.