Collect evidence

Good plans are based on evidence. This planning phase may go by a variety of different names including data collection, needs assessment, environmental scan, situational analysis, etc. It includes clearly identifying the primary gap or need to be addressed as well as the key opportunities. It means finding good quality information to answer questions such as[1]:

  • What impact is the current situation having on health and quality of life for various groups of people?
  • What solutions do community members favour and why?
  • What are the benefits of acting now versus later?
  • What negative behaviours by various people are affecting the situation?
  • What is causing people to act negatively or in unhealthy ways?
  • What are other organizations doing to address the situation? and
  • What evidence exists to support various courses of action?


An introduction to Evidence-Informed Public Health (EIPH) and a compendium of critical appraisal tools for public health practice (revised).

National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT)

This paper explains the seven stages of evidence informed public health (EIPH):

  1. Define
  2. Search
  3. Appraise
  4. Synthesize
  5. Adapt
  6. Implement
  7. Evaluate

It also includes a list of tools to help you critically appraise the available evidence.

Situational assessment (Chapter from Planning Health Promotion Programs workbook)

Public Health Ontario

Find out about situational assessments, why it is important and how to do one in Chapter Two of the Planning Health Promotion Programs workbook.

This chapter covers six steps:

  1. Identify key questions
  2. Develop a data gathering plan
  3. Gather the data
  4. Organize, synthesize and summarize the data
  5. Communicate the information
  6. Consider how to proceed with planning

The workbook is designed to match the worksheets in the Online Health Program Planner.

Evidence-informed decision-making list of information and tools

Canadian Best Practices Portal

This list of hyperlinked, annotated resources about evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM) focuses on: increasing understanding about EIDM, illustrating use of EIDM, building capacity to do EIDM, and providing sources of evidence.

The health planner’s toolkit
Module 2: Assessing need and Module 3: Evidence-based planning

Health Systems Intelligence Project; Government of Ontario

This toolkit provides guidance and advice on proven planning methods.

It includes seven modules:

  1. The planning process
  2. Assessing need
  3. Evidence-based planning
  4. Understanding integration
  5. Community engagement and communication
  6. Evaluation and
  7. Priority setting

Topics specifically covered in module 2 include:

  • What is health needs assessment?
  • Making choices in health needs assessments
  • Practical guides and workbooks and
  • Five steps of health needs assessment

Topics specifically covered in module 3 include:

  • What is evidence?
  • How do I find the evidence I need?
  • How do I judge the quality of information?
  • How do I use information with confidence?
  • How are things measured? and
  • Ethics

Tools are included in the appendices.

Footnote 1 Situational Assessment (Chapter from Planning Health Promotion Programs Workbook), The Health Communication Unit 2010. Virtual Library (Return to footnote 1 source paragraph.)