Community Development Society

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Community Participation in Health Programs or Self-care?

Submitted by Maryam Ahmadian
Affiliate Faculty
George Mason University
IACD&CDS Board Member and Director

Community participation does not only represent taking part in an action planned by health care professionals in a top-down approach. The concepts of health promotion, self-care and community participation also developed during in 1970s in the developed countries. The purpose of this short blog is to review community participation models in health proposed by Rifkin and to prompt the role of individual’s participation in the decision-making process towards preventive behaviors. It is not applied to formulate a single model to embody community participation in health programs. Furthermore, the previous models didn’t explicate other relevant factors (e.g. cultural, social, behavioral, economic, or structural) affecting community participation in health programs especially the power of self-care.

Another challenging issue is the boundary between participation and activity which is not measured in the quality of community participation in health programs. Rifkin (1991) stated that there are five levels of public participation in health programs as follows:(1) Health benefits (2) Program activities (3) Implementation (4) Monitor and evaluation (5) Planning. These approaches also restate the three models of community participation in health: compliance, contribution, and community control by Rifkin (1986). Conceptualizations of the models and levels of community participation in health programs are seldom scrutinized in previous studies, nevertheless community participation in health programs increasingly documented as a key factor to improve and maintain health interventions and its outcomes.

To understand the importance of self-care within community participation levels and models in health programs, this short blog places an emphasis on health benefits and compliance which underline on individual’s participation in health programs and people’s decision-making power which could be inclined to a partnership between health care professionals and individuals. In fact, self-care would provide the whole community with the capacity to cause sustainable changes at all levels, individual and community to achieve and maintain optimal health. It could benefit those especially who tolerate the greatest burden of chronic disease such as cancer diseases. Self-care, community participation in preventive programs, health empowerment and sustainability of health developments in preventive behaviors would alter this discussion further. Self-care has the potential to increase the intentions of individuals to perform preventive behaviors, which can promote early detection of cancer diseases.

Future research should evaluate targeted communication interventions for addressing self-care and seeking health benefits, patient’s compliance to health promotion recommendations for at-risk communities. Without any doubt, self-care as a first level or model of community participation in health makes individuals and the community engage in health activities to maintain their health and well-being.

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