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Rural Health Information Hub

Set Goals and Priorities for Your Rural Community Health Program

Program planners can use community health needs assessment results and input from community members and partners to establish priorities likely to have the greatest impact. Multiple methods can help identify program goals. Rural communities can consider engaging an outside facilitator for technical assistance with the goal-setting process, such as a community healthcare provider, an individual from the public health department, or a researcher who partners with community members.

Rural communities can also use formal prioritization strategies, including:

  • Nominal Group Process: A facilitated approach that uses a series of votes to narrow down priorities. Each member of the group, such as a community advisory board, will select their top priorities. Based on the responses, the issues with the most votes are the ones that are selected as major priorities.
  • Hanlon Method/ Basic Priority Rating System: Prioritizes issues by assigning a score (1-10) in each of the following categories: magnitude (size), importance (urgency, severity, consequence), and potential intervention success.

Less formal methods for prioritization include roundtable discussions, unstructured focus groups, general forums, and community meetings/forums. The Rural Health Equity Toolkit provides additional context about using data to identify priorities.

Resources to Learn More

The Community Tool Box: Chapter 3 - Section 23. Developing and Using Criteria and Processes to Set Priorities
Offers guidance for establishing criteria and processes to set priorities for community improvement projects. Includes FAQs discussing why developing and using criteria and processes are important for program planning, who should be involved in their development, and how to use them to set priorities.
Organization(s): University of Kansas Work Center for Community Health and Development

The Community Tool Box: Chapter 8 - Section 3. Creating Objectives
Offers guidance for creating objectives to support a strategic plan using the SMART+C (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timed, and Challenging) approach. Includes a checklist of tasks and examples, and a worksheet with instruction for developing objectives.
Organization(s): University of Kansas Center for Community Health and Development

Objectives and Goals: Writing Meaningful Goals and SMART Objectives
Provides a guide and checklist for using SMART objectives to write goals that are clear and concise, and objectives that engage colleagues and community members to work together to promote community health and equity.
Organization(s): Minnesota Department of Health

Setting Goals and Developing Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound Objectives
Defines the components of SMART objectives — specific measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound — and how they offer a method to keep projects moving forward to meet the completion of goals.
Organization(s): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration