Clinicians get subjective information from the patient, including the patient's presenting complaint, experience of his or her symptoms, and collect objective information such as the results of blood pressure measurements, x-rays and blood tests. After collecting the patient data, the clinician makes a diagnosis (assessment), and then decides on a treatment plan.
The S.O.A.P. Model for Clinical and Community Health Assessment
|Clinical Assessment||Community Assessment|
Presenting complaint, symptoms, pain, medical interview
Community members, advisory boards, CBOs, focus groups, key informant interviews, qualitative surveys
Physical examination, Heart rate, BP, Blood test, X-ray
Morbidity, mortality rates, behavioral data, social determinants, quantitative surveys
What is the diagnosis?
What are the priority health and safety issues?
What treatment will be most effective?
What interventions will be most effective?
The same heuristic can be applied to public health assessment. A clinician wouldn't think of prescribing a treatment without first collecting both subjective and objective information. As public health practitioners, we shouldn't consider planning or implementing programs or making policy decisions in the absence of relevant data.