This week, we are going to briefly talk about community-led initiatives and the important role that they play in community health. For the last little while, we have explored the evolution of Guatemala’s healthcare system and the historical contexts that led to the marginalization and continuous poor health outcomes of her Indigenous people. The initial goal for this week’s blog was to dive into one of the current community initiatives being taken to improve healthcare delivery in this population, however, I believe that it is important to first understand what community health is and why community-led initiatives are the best approach to addressing the health needs of a community.
What Is Community Health?
Depending on who you talk to or what dictionary you use, the term ‘Community’ can mean different things to different people, in different contexts. While there may be disagreements on how to define a community, we generally view it as a group of people living in a shared space. For a lot of us, the communities we live in are essential to who we are. We may not see our neighbors or family or friends at every waking moment, but we recognize that our close proximity means that we generally share a common experience, and for the most part, common health outcomes.
Community health can be defined as a subsection of health that focuses on the healthcare, economics, and social interaction of communities. In the context of healthcare, it is concerned with the physical and mental well-being of members in a community and it aims to improve poor health outcomes and maintain quality access to care. According to CDC, community health, “promotes healthy living, helps prevent chronic diseases and brings the greatest health benefits to the greatest number of people in need.” Community health allows for various sectors to address health inequities and inequalities while ensuring that members of these communities can actively participate in their own health and the health of those around them.
The Community-Led Approach to Health
Community-led initiatives are one of the key catalysts for healthy and resilient communities. When approaching community health, it is important to ensure that all efforts being made are a direct reflection of the experiences and desires of those in the community. Community-led initiatives put members of the community in the driver’s seat. Members are able to set their own goals and decide what is a priority to the community and what actions would best benefit the community.
These initiatives usually involve multisectoral collaborations with policy makers, healthcare professionals or public health leaders. They allow communities to have their health needs addressed by the appropriate sector and help guide these sectors in how to tailor interventions, aid, and health policy to the needs of specific communities. While there are several approaches to community health, and although they be well-intentioned, if these approaches are not community-led, many times, projects that arise either miss the mark or misalign with the needs of members in the community.
Types of Community-Led Health Initiatives
- Mobile Health Clinics
- Vans or buses operated by nurse practitioners and registered nurses who provide on the spot primary care. These custom mobile clinics provide primary care services, such as physical exams, diagnostic tests, immunizations and referrals (Crestline, 2012).
- Public Health Campaigns
- Campaigns specific to the health needs or concerns of a community. It could involve raising awareness about the risks of alcohol use, obesity, and/or smoking. It can be implemented through with public service announcements, billboards, flyers, and other platforms to emphasize the importance of exercise, smoking cessation, and a healthy diet (Science Direct, 2016).
- Preventive and Social Health Programs
- These programs often work hand in hand with community-led public health campaigns. They may involve sport camps to promote physically activity among children, or even the free gym memberships for community members. It could involve building more shelters for those who are homelessness within the community, the introduction of 24-hour food banks to alleviate food insecurities, or even the introduction of bi-weekly meetups to help elders in the community who feel isolated (Social Work Degree Center, 2016).
Community-led initiatives allow us to appropriately address the needs of various communities and are a vital component of community health. They allow members to come together and take initiative in their own health, while connecting them to the sectors and resources that they need to improve the health outcomes of everyone.
Together we can make an impact on the health of the nations and the generations to come.
The mission of WHEF is to increase accessibility to medications and supplies for healthcare facilities in Guatemala and Grenada. If you are interested in hearing more about the work we are doing, or in connecting with us, you can visit our website, check out our instagram or facebook, or sign up to receive our newletters. If you would like to support us in our work, please donate here.