Focus groups are a useful qualitative research technique to assist in interpreting quantitative community assessment data. Data obtained from focus groups can provide sociological and psychological insights into the perceptions of population subgroups and suggest answers to the "why" questions raised by descriptive data about such issues as teen pregnancy, poverty, immunization levels, or lifestyle-related morbidity and mortality. Application of these insights can lead to the better use of community strengths and the creation of community-specific responses to barriers to health care. Focus groups work well for involving hard-to-reach members of a community in program development, planning, and evaluation. They may be more effective than face-to-face interviews and questionnaires because people often have not thought about how they feel and tend not to form opinions in isolation (1). The information sought through the use of focus groups is not randomly distributed in the population. Thus, groups are not randomly selected, and data are not gathered with the intent to generalize to all populations.
Nursing and health care perspectives