238758 What makes a healthy community? Increasing the community voice in public health planning through qualitative research

Monday, October 31, 2011: 8:30 AM

Valerie Polletta, MS , Research and Evaluation Department, Health Resources in Action, Inc., Boston, MA
Lisa S. Wolff, ScD , Research and Evaluation Department, Health Resources in Action, Inc., Boston, MA
Michelle Keenan, MA , Center for Community Health and Health Equity, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA
Swapnil Maniar, PhD, MPH , Center for Community Health and Health Equity, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA
Steve Ridini, EdD , Community Health Division, Health Resources in Action, Inc., Boston, MA
Wanda McClain, MPA , Center for Community Health and Health Equity, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA
Community involvement and collaboration are critical for public health planning. This presentation will describe the use and benefits of qualitative methods to identify health needs and enhance community engagement for the improvement of public health. We will present two projects that engaged over 200 participantsóa health assessment and a series of community dialoguesówith the aim of understanding what makes a healthy community. As part of a community needs assessment, ten focus groups (n=84) were conducted to gauge perceptions of community needs and assets. As part of a Birth Equity Initiative, a series of community dialogues (n=135) were convened to address racial disparities in infant mortality.

To guide the discussions for both projects, conversations focused on what makes a healthy community. Key themes expressed included: (a) opportunities for employment and educational advancement; (b) the impact of violence on mental and physical health (e.g., lack of safe places to exercise); and (c) access to healthy, affordable food. Findings indicated that community members clearly understand the role of social determinants of health in their day to day lived experience.

While quantitative indicators provided a social and economic context of health, qualitative methods created an opportunity to hear the community voice regarding pertinent health issues. Furthermore, qualitative research addressed limitations presented by quantitative data, such as availability, timeliness, and geographic specificity. Qualitative data provided a real-time perspective of community needs and assets which is particularly crucial when there are unique social and economic factors that can significantly impact multiple dimensions of health.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Program planning

Learning Objectives:
Explain the importance of qualitative research in engaging the community and identifying community needs and assets Describe how community members think about health and healthy communities within a social determinants of health framework.

Keywords: Assessments, Community Involvement

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was heavily involved in the data collection and analysis for both projects.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.