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Community participation


Community participation in health projects increases community efficacy and usually leads to not only a better use of local resources but also to a higher acceptance of health measures by the local community members. Participation is – in this context – defined as the active involvement of community members in decision making processes as well as in the implementation of solutions. Higher levels of participation benefit the health of the community in various ways: people are more involved in spreading and implementing health solutions, local resources are put to better use, local needs are considered more aptly (no “one size fits all” solutions) and decisions are generally better accepted.

It is important to note, that even good ideas and valuable programs might not be accepted by a community if they are seen by people as being forced upon the community from outside NGOs or government officials. The better strategy often is to educate community health workers and then turn most of the outreach, implementation and evaluation over to them. This principle has been proven true in many primary health projects over more than three decades, ranging from water filtering (for preventing guinea worm desease) to well construction, child inoculation and use of contraception. An effective community health program can, however, still start out as a typical social policy planing effort (being initiated from the outside) and then be slowly turned over to more and more local control.

These lecture notes were taken during 2012 installment of the MOOC “Community Change in Public Health” taught by Prof. Dr. William R. Brieger of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at Coursera.org. Prof. Brieger blogs under www.malariamatters.org and can be found on twitter as @bbbrieger.
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