What is a community’s health capacity? As a relative new term and concept, it is difficult to find a concise definition. However, there are plenty of published materials about it. According to Wikipedia (2017), it is described as capacity building, and is a process to obtain, retain, and build skills and knowledge. Merriam-Webster (2017) described capacity as the “facility or power to produce, perform or deploy.” For this discussion, a community’s health capacity can be defined as its ability to adapt to changing conditions to sustain a high quality of life. The community needs to be able to understand obstacles and barriers that inhibit progress, and allows them to achieve measurable and sustainable results. The goal is to find that equitable balance between economic, environmental, educational, ecological and social equity factors.
Birt, C., & Foldspang, A. (2009). Public health capacity building—not only the property of the medical profession. European journal of public health, 19(3), 232-235.
Definition of Capacity. (2017). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capacity
Health literacy and leadership in making healthy communities
What does it mean to have a healthy community? Can it really be achieved? Is it a destination or a journey? A lot of professions are talking about making communities healthier. For example, Urban Planners, Architects, Engineers and other professionals engaged in shaping our environments are discussing this within the scope of their expertise. Leadership groups and healthcare organizations such as hospitals are engaged in changing their health cultures. Politicians are busy debating health care, who should have it, when it should be available and who is going to pay for it. All communities across the United States have organizations battling drug abuse and addictions. Social media debates the problems, places blame, talks of corruption and yet is not engaged in finding answers. Academia is teaching the elements of public health and pushing students to be agents of positive social change.
I think it can be said, we are engaged with the issue. What is ironic is we are not talking to each other. Yes, there is some cross talk. The first problem is health literacy. Many professions have their own technical language and acronyms that do not easily cross into the mainstream. The second problem is the disconnect between professions and leaders. The third problem is the lack of a mechanism that engages the different disciplines and professions to a common outcome. Yes, some non-profits do engage different professionals to the mission of that non-profit, but this is limited and very narrow in scope.
Let’s illustrate this issue with an example; a municipality in the northeastern part of the United States recently completed updating their Master plan. The process included planners, municipality officials, local business officials, community leaders, and public participation. During one of the workshops the issue of employing more residents from the municipality was discussed. Everyone agreed that all efforts should be made to hire residents first to help reduce poverty and unemployment. A couple of local businesses stated they try to hire residents first, but the prospective employee can’t pass the drug test. A suggestion was made to get social services more engaged. A Social Service representative states they are under staffed and don’t have the budget, plus why is this, their problem. Upon approval of the updated Master Plan, the municipality’s legislative body posed one question back to the planning department, “Who is going to implement this plan?” Is this a health literacy or leadership problem?
So many have started to have the conversation about becoming healthier, should we perceive this as a good start? What are your thoughts and how would you address these problems?
HYPERLINK "https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-carroll-apa-apha-iedc-9322799" James Carroll, APA, APHA, IEDC
Senior Community Health Planner
Community Health Assessment & Health Literacy
The health of a community and the capacity of it residents to remain healthy to remain healthy is a common goal. Defining a healthy community is challenging and has many different perspectives making this goal appear to be an intangible and unattainable (Goodman et al., 1998). Life expectancy and infant mortality are social determinant measures that have become increasingly more accepted in defining a population’s health over the last decade, (Laureate Education, 2011). Early in the 20th century, curative approaches to health case were achieving great successes, and in the 21st century, the benefits of a preventative approach to health inequalities were being realized in communities across North America (Laureate Education, 2011).
Obesity a Health Issues and Social Determinants
Most obesity related illnesses and chronic diseases are preventable (CDC, 2008). Yet, over 150 billion dollars is spent annually treating these problems in the United State (Health, NY 2011). The World Health Organization now considers obesity to be a world-wide epidemic (WHO, 2009). Over the past four decades, obesity has increased over 300%, and leaving generations of obese adults teaching their children the same high risk behaviors (RWJF, 2011). Ethnic and socioeconomic disparities for healthy food and environments to live-in have lead the way for inequities in communities (RWJF, 2011). These inequities have continued to grow, resulting in a rise in environmental and behavioral risks, leading to higher incidents of obesity, increasing the frequencies of diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease and cancer among children and adolescents (Adamson & UNICEF, 2010). Childhood and adolescent health care costs have risen 70% over the last 15 years as obesity has risen 200% among children 5 to 17 years old (Trasande, et al, 2009). Among Hispanic and African American children these incident of obesity are two to three time higher (Trasande, et al, 2009).