3.1. Problem identification and general needs assessment

The most important step is the first one, the general needs assessment (GNA). The goal of step 1 is to focus the curriculum, by defining the deficits in knowledge, attitude, or skills that currently exist in practitioners and the ideal approach to teaching and learning these objectives. When completed, the GNA makes a strong argument for the need for the curriculum and identifies potential educational research questions.

Research for this step can extend over many fields of endeavor: public health and epidemiology, health care systems, utilization and resources, emerging knowledge of disease, patient support groups, and educational theory and practice.
A well-researched step 1 impacts steps beyond the learner objectives by identifying educational methodologies, faculty development resources, potential funding resources, and opportunities for dissemination of the curriculum.
Identification and critical analysis of the health care problem that will be addressed by the curriculum requires substantial research to analyze what is currently being done by practitioners and educators, i.e., the current approach, and ideally what should be done by practitioners and educators to address the health care problem, i.e., the ideal approach. The general needs assessment is usually stated as the knowledge, attitude, and performance deficits that the curriculum will address.