GEDI Week: Natalia Woolley on Culturally Responsive Data Collection Methods for Community Needs Assessments

My name is Natalia Woolley. I am a GEDI scholar from the 2014-15 cohort, and a graduate student in the Community Health Sciences department at UCLA. As part of the GEDI program, I interned at Kaiser Permanente (KP), in the Community Benefit Department’s evaluation unit.

At KP, I provided support for the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), a federally mandated process all non-profit hospitals must conduct every three years. During the internship I focused on the methods used to collect and analyze primary and secondary data. I also collaborated in the department’s efforts to ensure primary data collection methods were systematically responsive to the cultural diversity found in the communities served by KP.

Lessons Learned:

Operationalizing culturally responsive practices is a challenge. Although many scholars have defined culture and articulated its importance when conducting evaluations, it is still a challenge to operationalize some cultural concepts. Nevertheless, I believe acknowledging the challenge is an important step into making needs assessments more culturally responsive.

Successful primary data collection should be culturally responsive. Hospitals must collect primary data as part of the CHNA. This process allows hospitals to better understand the communities’ main health issues, priorities and resources. To successfully connect with community members, hospitals should ensure their outreach and engagement are culturally responsive.

Hot Tips:

Helpful Hints: Secondary data can inform culturally responsive primary data collection. Secondary data provides a great deal of information about the groups living in each community. For example, secondary analysis results can provide a snapshot of the community demographics, including the population percentage with limited English proficiency. Evaluators can use this information to include language appropriate resources in the data collection process.

However, secondary data might miss some marginalized groups. To go beyond the secondary data, it is helpful to identify and contact organizations working with marginalized groups. For instance, Los Angeles County has an extensive database of organizations providing services to groups in need ( Another possible option is to solicit input from community health workers servicing these groups.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s GEDI Program and its interns. For more information on GEDI, see their webpage here: Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “GEDI Week: Natalia Woolley on Culturally Responsive Data Collection Methods for Community Needs Assessments”

  1. Jessica Marshall

    Hello Ms. Woolley,
    Thank you for contributing insight into the challenges of collecting data and needs assessment from a culturally diverse community. As an educator I have found similar challenges in reaching parents and caregivers for connecting and communicating about their child’s education.
    I appreciate that you highlight the importance of making connections regardless of how difficult it might be. Inaction can prove to be more harmful than good.
    Your post opened my eyes to the important efforts in creating a line of communication, regardless of how difficult it may seem. I had not thought of using secondary data in order to help gain insight into language preferences for primary data collection. I agree that when doing so, we need to be mindful that not all marginalized groups will be included in such data.
    Your suggestions of reaching out to community members to gain more information and connect in a culturally responsive way also applies to education programming. In understanding our students’ cultural background, we not only gain insight into important data concerning language and customs, but by showing an interest in our students (and their family’s), we might also gain trust and further communication.
    Furthermore, I believe that it is important to acknowledge that historically data from marginalized groups was often ignored, or fabricated. In order to move forwards from past omissions it is essential to do our best to collect as much data as possible, despite the challenges faced in doing so.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience and advice.

    Jessica Marshall

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