61 thoughts on “Please post your response to the week 7 readings here!

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  5. Community participation becomes more important when it comes in the health field. For instance, donor-supported health projects are sometimes subject to failure due to the fact that the target community is not been engaged enough or even ignored. However, there are numerous projects which gain huge achievement when they involve communities. Immunization campaigns for Polio reduction in my country is one of successful projects in which stakeholder coordination and community participation has been remarkable.

  6. This week’s readings helped me to refresh some concepts I have been learning, not only through school and academia, but through working in the community. Aronson’s chapter helped me to have a better understanding of how important is for a community to build social networks that will lead to social support within their members and finally to sustained those networks by constructing social capital. As we talked about last week, some oppressed groups or communities only have the choice to congregate to fight for their rights. Thus constructing that social capital could help them to achieve their goals, or at least to demonstrate their discomfort, being a good quality of any social group. Hence, as Aronson expressed “social capital, when defined as social cohesion, can have both negative and positive social effects” (p. 434). Therefore, those privileged groups could use that strong social capital to act against the less privileged. In addition, it’s very interesting how something simple, and that doesn’t need a scientific or theoretic definition to be meaningful, as hope, could be an essential “tool” to positive influence community building and sustainability. Everybody, even in its simplest way, have hope and a certain sense of optimism, so if public health workers want to help to mobilize a community, they have to take in account how to invoke that hope, that sometimes seems invisible. Finally, when Aronson addressed the principles to guide the work of community transformation, I think that what defines a good researcher, health worker or community leader is to understand that we have to “start where the people are”. This also made me remember about the principles or rules of doing Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), because it is stated that we have to first take in account what are the community’s needs, issues or problems, and then find resources, grants or funds to address those needs, issues or problems; in that way, not the contrary. It’s just that sometimes, maybe not intentionally, researchers apply for a grant, thinking that they know enough about the community’s concern (and that they are doing CBPR), and then, when they finally have to do the research find out that it’s not that easy or the community feels like lab rats and doesn’t want to participate.

    In terms of the Minkler and Wallerstein’s reading, I found very interesting the inclusion of historical perspective as part of the discussion. It’s important to know why community organizing began, to understand how this organization could help to address public health and social issues now. Likewise, I like how the concept of community was discussed, because sometimes we think about community of something merely spatial, but you don’t have to be or live in the same place of that community to feel like a member. I strongly believe that the most important key concept in community organizing and community building should be “building empowerment”. If you work with an individual and/or a community, by building a sense of power and autonomy they will be then capable to affront and learn from their problems in a healthy and beneficial way, and then transmit the gain knowledge to the other community members. Also, to identify leaders from the community that could also work as lay health worker could be an excellent way to build those empowerment skills.

    Finally, McKnight and Kretzmann’s chapter on mapping community capacity helped me to understand the mapping technique and its importance for community building and organizing. I could also understand the difference between organizing a community around their deficiencies rather than to use individual capacities to mobilize it. I liked how McKnight and Kretzmann analyzed these perspectives: “The starting point for any serious development effort is the opposite of an accounting of deficiencies. Instead, there must be an opportunity for individuals to use their own abilities to produce. Identifying the variety and richness of skills, talents, knowledge, and expertise of people in low-income neighborhoods provides a base upon which to build new approaches and enterprises” (p. 173). Consequently, by identifying the strongest capabilities of the community members, we can also build empowerment skills. Lastly, I always thought about how those needs assessments studies were useful rather than to report statistics and “present” the problem. However, by learning about community maps I now have a sense of what else could be done with those types of surveys or instruments. It’s always better to have something visual to learn about a problem rather than to have numbers that sometimes don’t represent the real problem. Moreover, by mapping the assets of a community or neighborhood, public health workers could learn about where the resources (in terms of agencies and other organizations) have been well or mal- distributed and what is needed to attend the needs of that community.

  7. Doing the reading for class this week on community organizing and social change made me think about my own community. A common theme in the reading is that in order for program or interventions to be successful people in the community need to be invested and play a big role. Minkler and Wallerstien define community organizing as “the process by which community groups are helped to identify common problems or change targets, mobilize resources, and develop and implement strategies to reach their collective goals”. The key word in this definition is helped. I feel like too often people from outside communities come in to new communities see what they think is a problem or issue and try to fix it without community imput because they believe that is what best. The problem with this is that they don’t truly understand the community and why think are the way they are. They will never truly understand the needs of a community. They might have an idea or read a few books and the community, it’s history and it’s people but do not have the lived experience of living in that community. That’s why it is important that the people from the community play a role in this process because at the end of the day it’s their community and once the funding is gone or the program or project is over they will continue to live in that community. These programs that look good on paper might be useless or even harmful to a community even if they are well intended.

    We also need to understand that by going into communities and creating these programs or interventions we are not addressing the problems even if we have community input because we have to change the systems that allow these injustices and health disparities to exist. As Levy et. Al. writes in Social Injustice and Public Health,“As public health workers, we need strategies to assist individuals and communities in their own transformation as they address health disparities and their root causes. We need strategies to improve access to, and the quality of, facilities and services— including public health programming— and we need strategies to stimulate macroeconomic, political, and cultural change”. Again I want to point out that the key word in there is assist but also that it’s not just the individual or communities that need to be changed but also policies. It also brings up the root causes of these problems that I believe is very important. I do an activity in HIPP called the root caused of violence. In the activity we first ask people to brainstorms act of violence. This part is usually very easy and we fill up the top of the paper very quickly with thinks like stabbing, shooting, murder, war etc. After we brainstorm the causes of these acts of violence. After a little discussion the group usually fills up the bottom half of the paper with things like emotions, anger, government, money, media etc. Then I draw around all that ideas and it makes a tree. I explain the things at the bottom are what we call the root causes and the thinks on top or acts of violence are the leaves and branches. Similar to looking a tree we usually only see the acts of violence and not the roots. But the roots causes of violence and embedded deep within and like the roots of a tree also twices as big as the tree. By making this connects the youth are able to see that in order to work of decrease violence in our community we have to work on the root cause, similar to health disparities in our communities.

  8. I thought this weeks readings were good. I enjoyed reading them, especially since they applied to what I am doing with my MPH project. . The first article by Aronson et al really drew me in; mainly because of the mention of Cornell West. I actually had the privilege to meet him as he visited my undergraduate college (Lincoln University). He is known to be influential about topics that influence and/or can change the the black community. It was a good talk and everyone that was in attendance enjoyed the hour long speech. In the article by Aronson et al, a few things stood out particularly:
    “A lack of hope is thought to diminish health”
    I thought this line was very powerful. I never thought of it this way before, but it makes perfect sense. A persons mindset & psychological well-being is just as important to a person or maybe even more than a doctors visit to get a prescription.
    ” Health disparities suffered by poor & minority populations are socially produced, they result largely from current & historical social injustice.”
    I thought this hit home, primarily because I was in a heated argument about this exact issue. The lady that I was engaging in dialogue with believed that issues of the poor & minority were made because that is what the poor chose. The poor chose to be the way they are, they chose to live where they are, they chose to be poor, etc. I was mad. And I rarely get mad, but she had me furious. She was stuck in her ways and didn’t understand the complete issue. I left and all I could do was pray for her.
    The last issue I felt was critical in the article by Aronson, was: “Public health professionals need new skill sets & intervention strategies to assist communities in meeting the challenges they face.” As a future public health professional, I thought this was important to read. It is important for health professionals to not get stuck in a specific way of doing things, and that it is a non-stop learning process.

    In the following article by Minkler and Wallerstein, the term empowerment was addressed again. I feel that “empowerment” is, just as the article states, the catch-all phrase. When everyone wants to use it, achieve it, and then what. If someone is confined to that same community, empowerment can only do but so much, for a limited time. The “empowerment” feeling doesn’t last that long to the people who have to go back & live in the same conditions; but that’s my opinion.

    The final quote that I liked was in the McKnight & Kretzman article:
    “Our greatest assets are our people. But people in low-income neighborhoods are seldom regarded as “assets”. Instead, they are usually seen as needy & deficient…” Within this field, I think that we must continue to remember this quote. The people are the most vital element, and to think of them as needy & deficient is not right.

  9. In the Aronson, Lovelace, Hatch &Whitehead piece I appreciated the way the authors talked about communities as being made up of individuals, all of whom hold potential for facilitating change to some capacity. The break down social networks, support and capacity were helpful in my own understanding of practical ways in which to begin thinking about fostering change. The premise of hope, planning for the future and wanting to create change from within the community all stood out a paramount to creating authentic change, and change that is true to actual community needs versus needs identified by those outside of the community. This idea combined with McKnight & Kretzmann’s practical mapping and exploration of the ways in which poor communities are set up for dependencies, offers a new approach to community revitalization.

    Aronson et al., provided concrete steps to looking at ways communities can unite, can seek allies and build from there. So too did McKnight & Kretzmann offer creative ways to work alongside institutions such as hospitals, fire stations and police stations to strategically map and strengthen community senses of social capital and wellbeing.

    Finally the Minkler & Wallerstein piece emphasized the ways in which community driven work is as important in its process phase as in its completion (though this too can be on-going). They reference the “dialogic” method of group interaction and exchange, derived from Paolo Friere’s 1970 Pedegogy of the Oppressed to further explore how “community empowerment is multilayered, representing both process and outcomes of change (p.45). An added dimension that I found fascinating in the Minkler & Wallerstein piece was the exploration of internet and identity based communities. While the other two readings focused on revitalizing communities housed in set geographic areas, I was drawn the possibilities that were brought up by the ways in which internet can bring groups together, particularly those uniting around an ideology or identity-based community.

    In short, together these three pieces offered specific mechanisms by which to access needs and assets, define communities and plan for ways to include said communities in mobilization efforts – all things essential to creating strong programming, especially in Public Health. These pieces affirmed for me a sense of what health/wellbeing can look like on a community level and really made the case for programming with great intention around issues that are not necessarily connected to the disease-management side of Public Health, but the population-supporting side.

  10. What really stood out to me in this weeks readings was the concept of a community deficit model to approaching health, as identified in the McKnight and Kretzmann article. This concept links back to the readings on oppression last week, in particular Wildman & Davis’ discussion about language as a tool of oppression. Before reading this article, I had never stopped to consider the use of language in the term “needs assessment.” Now that I have read it, of course it is glaringly obvious. I had always considered a needs assessment to be a positive; a precursor to developing programming that is really needed in a community. Looking through a new lens, however, I can see how the focus on community deficits, or needs, can perpetuate both internalized racism and a dependence on outside structures and agencies. This same dynamic is also seen in global public health programming. What I also really enjoyed about the McKnight and Kretzmann article was the step-by-step break down of how to do work that focuses on community capacities and strengths. I have found this type of resource to be lacking in many of my public health classes, and I will definitely return to this article and theories.

    Minkler and Wallerstein emphasize the concept of community empowerment as being the foundation to sustainable social change, and I could not agree more. There is a lot of cross over between their discussions and the Aronson et al chapter, especially around the practical concepts of how to actually organize in communities. The Aronson et al and the McKnight & Kretzmann article in particular stand out as extremely valuable and useful guides to community organizing; they are also written in straightforward language, which means the concepts can be practically put to use by community members.

    For me one of the biggest challenges to doing engaged community work that can lead to social change are the funding priorities, and the stipulations and limitations of these priorities. Academic research is guided by available funding, and funding priorities do not always reflect what is critical to address in local communities. As I move forward in academia, I personally struggle with my role within that context. How do I, and will I, remain committed to social justice if the work that I do is determined by funding priorities? Of course I don’t have an answer to this, but this question is what I think about often. Along with that, I think about if and how it is possible for funding priorities to shift so that social justice is a priority. This is the final item on Aronson et al.’s “agenda for action” and I agree with them that it is critical. At the same time, communities and many small agencies are placed in a position to compete for funding, and competition is the antithesis to collaboration. What I do know is that I can continue to assess my position, thoughts, and ideas that I bring to any of the current and future work that I do.

  11. Aronson et al. suggested that strengthening communities and the roles of individuals in community life can help prevent disease and disability and expand resources for promoting social justice (Aronson et al., p.433). This means that society is changed when individuals and communities change the routine patterns of social organization. Strengthened community does not mean that we have a lot of funds from the outside. However, it means that we have empowerment within our community. So, for working with communities, we, as public health professionals, have to know community’s characteristics and abilities. For understanding a community, we have to go and see what are their real problems. One thing that I feel interesting is self-depreciation can be another characteristic of the oppressed (Aronson et al., p.438). Restoring self-respect or regarding for others should be included in public health strategies.

    In Minker and Wallerstein’s article, there are many definition of community organizing, community building, community capacity, empowerment, and social capital, etc. These are all connected to improve community members’ health status. Good community has to have empowerment and critical consciousness. From this chapter, this empowerment means that community members have power or expand their power within their community. This concept is very important because if there is no empowerment in a community, their improved health cannot sustain for a long time. It will happen in a flash. It happens a lot in global health field. According to Easterly’s book “The White man’s burden,” there are two types of perspectives: one is planners’ and another one is searchers’. To explain what is difference between two types, for example, planner thinks of poverty as a technical engineering problem. But searcher thinks poverty is complicated tangle of political, social, historical, institutional, and technological factors (Easterly, 2007). Thus, searcher’s perspective may be needed to us to build community capacity, empowerment from inside of community.

    From Mcknight and Kretzmann’s article, I realized that one of my job, as a community health professional, can be a bridge between inside of community and outside of community. And using capacity map is necessary to identify which organizations can act more effectively as “asset development organization” in the community (Mcknight and Kretzmann, p.183). We can use capacity map in a process of creating relationships between people in community and outside organizations.

  12. The overall theme that I took away from the three readings this week was the benefit of looking at assets vs needs. For me, this is an important concept to keep in mind- it is really easy to start with the needs, deficiencies, and problems but as the articles demonstrate, this approach can actually be detrimental.

    The Aronson et al (2005) article identifies some specific community strengths and how they relate to improving health outcomes in the community. They also outline 3 strategies for making change that touch upon addressing individual, community, and societal levels. I thought the Principles to Guide the Work of Community Transformation were incredibly helpful in helping me see how I can work with communities to elicit strengths, resources, support groups, etc.

    Minkler and Wallerstien offered several key concepts from different models of community organizing and building that also lean towards a strength and assets based approach in making change in the community. As Shana mentioned, the authors discuss the importance of examining your own “dynamic of power” when considering the concepts of community organizing and building (such as empowerment and critical consciousness.

    The article by McKnight and Kretzman was very illustrative of the points discussed in the other articles. When comparing the two different maps (needs vs. assets) it really highlights what is missed when just looking at the problems. There is so much available and again, this article focuses on the importance of working from the inside out, inclusion, and where the different levels of power and control are.

    This summer, I worked with the Wilbraham Department of Public Health to conduct a needs assessment for their senior population. The project had been somewhat laid out before I began and so the objectives of identifying needs and problems were already established. However, after reading the articles this week, I can see how powerful it would have been to take a more strengths-based approach with the population. So many of the seniors were facing isolation and disempowerment and much of what we identified in the needs assessment were realistically not going to be changed, at least any time soon. I think it would have been more useful to work with the seniors to identify strengths and where they could build on what existed. As many of the seniors were retired, they were motivated and available to contribute time and resources-I think we missed an opportunity to build on that.

  13. The readings this week start, I believe, changing on a different area as mainly concentrating on the role of communities in communities’ life. It was really interesting to me to learn that how social connection, social networks and social integration can relate to the health of communities. We may, as an instance, have noticed that group of people who are displaced from their place of origin are suffering from psychological problems at least for a while. This, I think, refers to what the Aronson et al., highlights as the “role of social capital in communities’ health” (Aronson, e al., p-433). That said, individuals/group of people feel they have no cohesion or trust within the community where they just arrived in so it takes them as well as the community to be engaged in social network, gain the social support and social capital, and be mobilized for social action (Arnold et al., p. 434).

    The Arnold et al., gives good examples in local level which indicate how important is to consider community itself as a resource in order to address injustice disparities in those communities. Nobody else rather local representatives know that what the roots of their health concern are. So professionals from outside have to promote the social participation and social mobilization first prior to proceed for any planning or implementing steps. Given that as a matter of fact, we can talk about global issues (e.g. poverty, financial crises, and war/conflicts) which result in health disparities and social injustice. Similarly, the outside professionals who intend to effectively address these concerns need to first get familiarized with the communities of interest and know the context, identify their strengths – “…we cannot develop communities from outside in unless the community itself is committed to invest…” (McKnight & Kretzmann, p. 72).

    Improving Health through Community Organization and community Building has a thoughtful focus on the role of communities towards strengthening their ability to address their problems (Minkler and Wallerstain, 2014). Community participation becomes more important when it comes in the health field. For instance, donor-supported health projects are sometimes subject to failure due to the fact that the target community is not been engaged enough or even ignored. However, there are numerous projects which gain huge achievement when they involve communities. Immunization campaigns for Polio reduction in my country is one of successful projects in which stakeholder coordination and community participation has been remarkable. Provincial and district health departments always have the key role in scheduling and implementing the campaigns. In addition, community and religious leaders, and Mosques are highly assistive in reaching out the people prior and during the immunization campaigns. Hence, establishing and maintaining rapport with the community of interest and counting on them as as resource would be vital in successfulness of any intervention that needs to takes place there regardless of its focus/topic.

  14. I found this week’s readings to be refreshing. I think as public health professionals it is so easy to get hung up on the problems and challenges in a community. McKnight & Kretzmann (2012) focused on identifying means of capacity building and community assets. Identifying and building off of the strengths of a community help encourage a sense of pride as well as resourcefulness. Additionally, Minkler & Wallerstein (2012) examined the concept of community building as a tool for empowerment. This helped me to consider the meaning of my MPH project and how not only is the aim to raise awareness about the issue of youth violence in the community, but to also offer suggestions and have community members highlight the assets of their neighborhoods. By naming and understanding these potential building blocks, this could be the initial step toward developing a community that is prepared and equipped to embrace change.

    Also, Minkler & Wallerstein discussed the idea of social advocacy and action used to highlight conflict and challenge power imbalances. This is important to the central issues that require structural changes. Last week we read about the various types of oppression, which I feel links nicely to community building in the sense that, these readings suggest ways in which to openly identify, discuss, and address some causes of exploitation, marginalization, cultural imperialism, violence, and powerlessness. However, this is only half the battle. Aronson, Lovelace, Hatch, & Whitehead highlighted potential risks associated with social action and the oppressed in principle #8. This is particularly evident in the current happenings in the Ukraine—a community is rising up to protest against an unjust government; however, the result is conflict, arrests, killings, etc. This is one negative result associated with community organizing amongst the oppressed—though the intended goal may be positive.

    As addressed by Aronson, Lovelace, Hatch, & Whitehead, social networks are the foundation of potential health outcomes. “The protective aspects of community life are not only beneficial to community health but also amenable to change through community-organizing and community-building strategies” (p.435). I believe these readings were refreshing due to the contrast between last week’s topic of oppression, but also because community organizing can been seen as a positive concept that can lead to potential benefits within a community.

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