The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

3225.0: Monday, November 17, 2003 - 12:55 PM

Abstract #62406

Community protective factors and psychosocial resiliency: Community organizing in a Colombian war zone

Janey E. Skinner, MPH, Independent Consultant for Community Health, 5822 Dover Street, Oakland, CA 94609, 510-652-3932,

Community organizing in a rural village under conditions of war can enhance psychosocial resiliency and potentially reduce exposure to organized violence. This paper reports on an exploratory qualitative research study of a rural community organizing project in a Colombian war zone, where the community declared itself a “peace community” and refused support to all armed groups. Using participant observation and interviews, data were gathered to examine how organizing (a) increased the psychosocial resiliency of the community vis-ŕ-vis the threat of violence, and (b) potentially reduced exposure to organized violence. Data collection focused on community-level psychosocial protective factors, as supported by the literature review and the field data. Qualities that informants cited as making their community more able to cope with the threat of violence were documented and compared across levels of participation in the community organizing process. The key community-level protective factors evidenced in this study were grouped into four categories: Unity, Empowerment, Mutual Support, and Demilitarization. This investigation concludes that the organizing process contributed to the strengthening of community protective factors, and may have reduced the actual degree of exposure to organized violence. This study confirms the importance of community-based responses to organized violence. Furthermore, it suggests a new role for public health educators in promoting the development of protective factors to prevent victimization and to reduce the level of harm among communities victimized by warfare through the promotion of psychosocial resiliency.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Mental Health, Community Participation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

War and Public Health

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA