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What are the ways of improving community participation in health promotion?

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This is a question that I've been asked in the field so I wanted to share it with everyone on KnowledgePoint

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Effective health promotion practice places people at the heart of all activities. Health promotion needs to be carried out by people and with people, rather than on people or to people. This requires us to engage with communities in ways that allow people to have ownership of and involvement in all stages of health promotion activities. Community participation is also known as community engagement or community action. There are four different levels of community engagement and it's important to be honest with communities about which level is being applied at any one time. The most basic level is to provide information to individuals or the community about decisions and activities underway − this is a one-way flow of information. This may involve communication in the form of fact sheets, websites and information kits. The second level is to consult with individuals and the community and get feedback on the proposed activities. This is a limited two-way communication flow; however, it can be used effectively when community input is required to influence a decision on a preferred option. This level may involve communication in the form of focus groups, public submissions or comments and surveys. The third level of engagement is involvement; by working with the community to explore issues it may be possible to progress discussions to policy development and program responses. This level can be used when community issues are more complex. Examples of community engagement at this level include working groups, committees and workshops involving community members. The fourth and highest level of engagement is collaboration, where there is a partnership with the community. This level is used where there is a substantial timeframe involved and there is a chance to set the agenda together. Examples of engagement at this level include strategic advisory boards and committees. At this level of engagement, the community can define their own goals and contribute to decision-making to address a collective health issue. An engaged and empowered community is one in which individuals and organizations apply their skills and resources to gain increased influence over the determinants of health, address health priorities and meet their respective health needs. Effective community participation needs a good understanding of our communities or the groups and individuals we work with. We need to get to know their needs, priorities, capacity and any barriers to acting before launching into any interventions. Community participation also requires skills that recognize we don't all have the same life experiences. Enabling, mediating and advocacy, the ability to listen, empathize and respond are important for effective community participation. http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/wihpw/prin...  

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Participation in health promotion is an incredibly important component of every WASH project. We at Agua del Pueblo (AdP) (<www.aguadelpueblo.org> and <www.peopleswater.org>) follow a specific, integrated methodology with a goal to maximize community leadership. We feel that the methodology is the best way to obtain community participation in all phases including health promotion. Some of the elements of the methodology include: -AdP does not look for water projects. AdP only responds to requests directly from the community. -The community must provide ALL of the manual labor and participate in the funding. -Each family needs to physically sign a document that specifies community responsibility. We have found that the process of signing improves individual buy-in. -Each community must obtain local government support in terms of financing, at least for skilled labor. Please let us know how we can help. It takes more than a village to accomplish our WASH goals!

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